Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the Lord is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
If a mechanic tells me my car has a problem, I want him to tell me how he will fix it. If my doctor tells me my blood tests show a problem, I want her to tell me how she will fix it. If my plumber tells me my drains have a problem, I also want him to tell me how he can fix it. You get my drift! When faced with a problem, we want to know the fix!
It is clear we have a problem as a nation! One does not have to be a Mensa member or Nobel Prize winner to know that. Just look at the news on any given day and you’re face to face with the problem. A big one! But how to fix it! Will it be more education? More government stimulus to the economy? Will it be more scientific research, or Wi-Fi for everyone?
The search for a fix to our nation’s problem takes me to the Bible’s book on statecraft: Deuteronomy. This is not a book we often read, or from which I have preached many sermons. Yet Deuteronomy was the go-to-book, the handbook for our nation’s founders. In the founders’ writings they quote Deuteronomy more than any other document. They even quote Deuteronomy nearly twice as much as their beloved philosopher of liberty, John Locke. The founders looked to God’s teaching in Deuteronomy for guidance, just as Moses had in leading Israel as a nation.
Today’s scripture from Deuteronomy is just as important for us as it was for Moses in preparing Israel to enter the Promised Land. They had spent 40 years in the wilderness learning to walk with God in adversity. Every day they looked to God to provide enough manna and water for the day. Now as they prepare to enter the Promised Land they must be ready to learn to walk with God in prosperity. For the first time in the nation’s existence they will live in abundance and wealth. Moses previews for them “a land where you will eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper.” (Deuteronomy 8:9).
But Moses wants them to be prepared for the temptation that always comes with prosperity. They will face the temptation to think their prosperity comes from their ability, ingenuity, and hard work. “A gift kept long enough begins to seem like a possession.” (Walter Bruggemann, Commentary on Deuteronomy)
So Moses sternly warns in today’s text: “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gained me this wealth.’” Just as Jesus warns about the difficulty of the affluent entering the Kingdom, so Moses wants the Israelites to know the dangers they face. They will face the temptation to transfer daily trust from God to trust in their bank accounts, land holdings, and retirement plans. In doing this they will “forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them.” As they fall prey to prosperity they will become slaves to Canaanite hyper-sexuality, conspicuous consumption, nihilistic pursuit of violence, and the angst of never having enough.
“Houston, we have a problem!” We have a serious problem, and we may be nearing the tipping point! We cannot kick this problem down the road to our children and grandchildren. Fortunately, Deuteronomy lays out our problem for us: in our prosperity and affluence we have forgotten the Lord our God. And, Deuteronomy also lays out the solution: “But remember the LORD…”
As a Christian I cannot believe the solution to our problem comes from the government, the media, the university, or any political program. As we are coming down to crunch time as a nation, it is the time for us to remember the Lord our God. Our prosperity and power have deceived us.
As the Lord put the solution to Israel when they entered the Promised Land, so the Lord put the solution to us through Solomon in the night: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The future of our nation depends on us doing just that!
A fellow traveler,