Scripture: Deuteronomy 8:1-20
Key verses: (17-18) “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten 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.”
Reflection: The other day I was driving around the church trying to find a parking space during Millie’s weekly Bible study. The place was packed and there was no space to be found. I said a quick prayer, “Lord, if you’ll just give me a parking space, I’ll increase my pledge to the church.” At that moment, a car backed out from a prime space right by the door. “Never mind, Lord,” I said, “I found one!”
It’s so easy when things are going well in our lives to give ourselves the credit. “My hard work has really paid off!” “I deserve this.” Our culture nurtures such thinking. We employ phrases like, “I’m a ‘self-made-man.’” We admire a “boot-strap mentality” that encourages self-reliance, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. (If you’ve ever worn boots, you know that’s not possible!) God knows about this tendency within the human spirit. God knew it would be tempting for the ancient Israelites once they reached the Promised Land to live into the illusion that it was their doing. They walked all that way from Egypt. They endured 40 years in the wilderness. They fought the battles. They took the land. God knew they would be tempted to say, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.”
So through Moses, God warns them about this. For the record, the problem is not hard work; it’s forgetfulness. There’s nothing wrong with taking responsibility for your life and working to do the right thing. That’s what we’re supposed to do. The problem is when we forget that life itself is grace from God. Every breath we take is a God-given gift. Our intellect, our health, our ability to work, our capacity to be responsible are all gifts of God’s grace. When we forget this, we become our own gods. We make life about our own desires, our own wants. We make life about us. By so doing, we forget the covenant. God has blessed us with life. So we are called to love God with all we are, and love our neighbors as ourselves. This is the covenant. When we forget this, everything goes wrong. That was true for the Israelites over 3,000 years ago, and it’s true for us today.
Prayer: Cure us of our spiritual amnesia, O Lord. Let us not forget that every breath we take is a gift from you. May we use our lives, our gifts, our talents, our time, our treasure to honor you, that we might live into your vision for the world’s tomorrow, the Promised Land that is your Kingdom. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].