It is a distinctive of the American persona to especially value independence and to exalt the “can-do” spirit. That is a good thing, isn’t it? Well, generally speaking, it is. We should be responsible with the abilities and strengths we’ve been given by God’s grace. Such is certainly affirmed in 2 Thessalonians 3 where it says, “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.’ We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” And likewise, throughout all of Scripture, generosity toward those with genuine needs is applauded.
But there is a tendency when one has achieved success to self-indulge in the idea that one really made that happen all by oneself. And surely, discipline and fortitude have their rewards. But we need to remember that even our ability to have the capacity to reap the rewards of hard work is as well a gift from God. We need to remember this, even as the Israelites were reminded in the key verses of today’s passage: You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…
This reminds me of my recently-ended coaching career. I am very proud of my teams and their many successes – particularly the three state championships. But by way of full disclosure, I had the wonderful good fortune of just happening upon five of the fastest runners to ever wear Williamsport blue and white – who just happened to be in the same graduating class. I think I made them better and made it fun, but frankly, God made them skinny and fast.
The second paragraph in today’s reading gives us some insight upon the condition of the nations surrounding Israel. These were people who had previously made their decisions to not follow God, but to rather build idols and replacement objects of worship. For that, they were judged by God – many of them being wiped out by the Israelite conquest of the land. But notice that, again, Israel would not be exempt from the same treatment if they were to reject these repeated admonitions to obey God’s commands.
It really is pretty dumb to not obey God, isn’t it? That’s a very clear reason to be revived!
10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
19 If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the Lord destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the Lord your God.