World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts

Editor, Andrew Wilson



While Theravada Buddhism and Jainism regard progress toward enlightenment as entirely a matter of individual effort, in the theistic religions human efforts are undertaken in the context of God's grace. The relationship between effort and grace is what Thomas Aquinas called synergy: effort calls forth grace, and grace prompts effort. A number of texts stress human initiative as calling forth grace--"God helps those who help themselves"; conversely, others describe grace as preceding and overshadowing human effort. The concluding text describe the conjoint action of human effort and divine providence, including the paradoxical nature of their relationship. For texts that regard salvation as by grace alone, see Grace, pp. 505-12.

Be mindful of me, and I will be mindful of you.

Islam. Qur'an 2.152

If you say yes, your God will say yes.

African Traditional Religions. Igbo Proverb (Nigeria)

Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.

Christianity. James 4.7-8

God changes not what is in a people, until they change what is in themselves.

Islam. Qur'an 13.11

Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

Judaism and Christianity. 1 Samuel 2.30

Qur'an 13.11: Cf. Abot 2.4, p. 771. 1 Samuel 2.30: Cf. Sukkah 53a, p. 114; Berakot 55a, p. 718; Matthew 13.12, p. 718.

Realization of the holy Word is granted to those who place themselves under God's shelter.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Wadhans Chhant, M.5, p. 571

He who longs for the Self--by him alone is the Self attained. To him does the Self reveal His true being.

Hinduism. Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.3

Remembering me, you shall overcome all difficulties through my grace. But if you will not heed me in your self-will, nothing will avail you.

Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.58

He who conforms to the Way is gladly accepted by the Way; he who conforms to virtue is gladly accepted by virtue; he who conforms to loss is gladly accepted by loss.

Taoism. Tao Te Ching 23

If a man sanctify himself a little, he becomes much sanctified; if he sanctify himself below, he becomes sanctified from above; if he sanctify himself in this world, he becomes sanctified in the world to come.

Judaism. Talmud, Yoma 39a

If you wish to find the true way, Right action will lead you to it directly; But if you do not strive for Buddhahood You will grope in the dark and never find it.

Buddhism. Sutra of Hui Neng 2

In the Book of Changes it is said, "He is blessed by Heaven. Good fortune. Nothing that does not further."

The Master said, To bless means to help. Heaven helps the man who is devoted; men help the man who is true. He who walks in truth and is devoted in his thinking, and furthermore reveres the worthy, is blessed by Heaven. "He has good fortune, and there is nothing that would not further" [Hexagram 42: Increase].

Confucianism. I Ching, Great Commentary 1.12.1

Mundaka Upanishad 3.2.3: Cf. Bhagavad Gita 7.21-23, p. 725. For a different and more grace-centered interpretation of this same text, in which it is the Self who chooses whom He will, see p. 508. Bhagavad Gita 18.58: Cf. Hadith of Muslim, p. 758. Tao Te Ching 23: Cf. Analects 7.6, p. 672; 7.29, p. 114. On 'conforming to loss,' see Bhagavad Gita 7.21-23, Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 6, p. 726; Makkot 10b, p. 725; Abot 4.12, p. 717. Yoma 39a: Cf. Abot 2.4, p. 771; Berakot 55a, p. 718, Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 1.9, p. 717.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for fish, will give him a serpent? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Christianity. Bible, Matthew 7.7-11

God has declared: I am close to the thought that My servant has of Me, and I am with him whenever He recollects Me. If he remembers Me in himself, I remember him in Myself, and if he remembers Me in a gathering I remember him better than those in the gathering do, and if he approaches Me by as much as one hand's length, I approach him by a cubit.... If he takes a step towards me, I run towards him.

Islam. Hadith

God asks nothing of any soul save that which He has given it.

Islam. Qur'an 65.7

God gives each person a hook with which to pluck his fruit.

African Traditional Religions. Igbo Proverb (Nigeria)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Christianity. Revelation 3.20

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Christianity. Ephesians 2.8-10

Matthew 7.7-11: Cf. Luke 6.38, p. 983; Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 18.19-21, p. 827. Hadith: A sacred hadith transmitted by Ibn Hanbal, the great Muslim jurist. Cf. Sukkah 53a, p. 114; Romans 8:26-27, p. 648. Qur'an 65.7: Cf. Qur'an 2.286, p. 509; 48.4 p. 645; 1 Corinthians 10.13, p. 509. Revelation 3.20: Cf. John 15.4-11, p. 646. Ephesians 2.8-10: The two halves of this passage balance the grace of God with the obligation for good works. Priority is given to grace, by which we are transformed and enabled to do the good works.

Lo! this is an admonishment, that whosoever will may choose a way unto his Lord; yet you will not, unless God wills. Lo! God is Knower, Wise. He makes whom He will to enter His mercy, and for evildoers has prepared a painful doom.

Islam. Qur'an 76.29-31

Rabbi Akiba says, Everything is foreseen, yet freedom of choice is given; the world is judged by grace, yet all is according to the preponderance of works.

Judaism. Mishnah, Abot 3.19

By man's actions is acquired the vesture of human incarnation; By God's grace is attained the Door of Liberation. Nanak! Know the All-holy to be Almighty, Absolute.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Japuji 4, M.1, p. 2

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Christianity. Philippians 2.12-13

No affliction befalls, except it be by the leave of God. Whosoever believes in God, He will guide his heart. And God has knowledge of everything.

Islam. Qur'an 64.11

Should you do anything that is beautiful, God has caused it to be beautiful, Should you do anything evil, God has caused it to be evil.

African Traditional Religions. Nupe Proverb (Nigeria)

O My servants, everyone of you is in error, except the one I have guided, so ask guidance from Me and I will guide you. O My servants, everyone of you is hungry, except him whom I have fed, so ask food of Me and I will feed you. O My servants, everyone of you is naked except him whom I have clothed, so ask clothing of Me and I will clothe you. O My servants, you sin day and night, and I pardon your sins; so ask pardon of Me and I will pardon you.

Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 24

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Qur'an 76.29-31: Cf. Qur'an 49.7, p. 752. Abot 3.19: This passage juxtaposes two pairs of contraries: divine foreknowledge and human freedom, and the divine attributes of mercy and justice. Cf. Exodus 33.18, p. 689; Berakot 33b, p. 680. Philippians 2.12-13: Individual responsibility and the indwelling grace of God are juxtaposed in this passage. Cf. Romans 8.26-27, p. 648.

All undertakings in this world depend both on the ordering of fate and on human exertion; but among these two the ways of fate are unfathomable; in the case of man's work action is possible.

Hinduism. Laws of Manu 7.205

All by Thee is accomplished, Thine is the might, Thou watcheth Thy handiwork, With chess pieces raw and ripe. All that into the world have come, must depart hence-- All shall by turns go. Why put out of mind the Lord, master of life and death? By one's own hands is one's affairs set straight.

Sikhism. Adi Granth, Asa-ki-Var, M.1, p. 473-74

Lord Mahavira! Your word sometimes supports the view of providence, at other times calls events spontaneously occurring or ascribes destiny to external factors. At times you hold the deeds of individuals to be the mold of their desert, at other times find that another's deeds project their moral reflection on the individual. The miracle is that none blames you for these paradoxical utterances!

Jainism. Hemachandra, Dvatrimshika 3.8

Asa-ki-Var, M.1: The image of God in heaven moving chess pieces which determine man's destiny on earth is evocative of absolute predestination. Yet that is all the more reason to be mindful of God, Master of the game; for who knows on what basis he decides his moves, or whether he will not choose to move the pieces again?


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