[Mar 16]--The Dangers of Prosperity

Deut. 8:6-18

You might get the impression from some of these devotionals that material wealth is nothing but a good thing and we should pursue it (like in our discussion about the 8th Commandment), but that’s not the whole picture. It’s absolutely true that there's nothing wrong in seeking to improve your standard of living, nor is it wrong to save for “a rainy day.” However, there's a distinct danger in prosperity, and today’s passage should serve as a good balance.

To understand this concept, I’d like to introduce another theological term: providence. By this I mean the noun form of how our Father provides for us as his children. It’s also used in the sense of God controlling the world, but that’s not how I’m using it here. The Lord's promised to take care of his faithful children and to provide for their needs, and he does it in multiple ways. Most of us, if we’ve experienced hard financial times, can testify to God taking care of our needs in ways that border on the miraculous. Our lights and water were about to be turned off, and money came out of the blue from an unexpected source.

The Israelites’ situation was like this for over forty years. As I once heard a preacher comment, there were few atheists but plenty of rebels. Each morning, they would walk outside to collect their food for the day which had literally fallen out of the sky. When they were thirsty, God miraculously poured water for them out of a rock. His cloud had shaded them during the day, and his fire by night reminded them of his constant presence.

Now their situation would become like most of ours today in America. Instead of miraculous feedings, they'd have to plow, sow, weed, and reap the food they would eat. If they wanted protection from the elements, they'd have to build houses. Water would have to come from more normal sources, like wells (that had to be dug). The danger, now that they were entering a prosperous land, is that they'd forget a vital theological point: The Lord was still providing for them, just as much as when they were in the desert. He was the one who'd give them the strength and other resources to grow food. It's so easy to forget this and come up with the foolish notion that we're the ones providing for ourselves. Every good thing in our lives comes ultimately from him. When we're depending on daily Manna to keep from starving to death, it's not so difficult to remember that. When he provides thru more indirect means (like a steady job), it's a lot harder to keep that in mind.

It’s the same way with healing. All healing ultimately comes from him, whether it’s miraculous (and I believe he still does that today) or if it comes from medicine and doctors. Who do you think designed your body to fight off disease? Who do you think designed the brain and the hands of the surgeon who operates on you? Who do you think gave the skills to the medical researchers who came up with new treatments?

Whether directly from his hand or through more indirect methods, he's still providing for his children, and we should always be grateful to him and trust him to take care of us.

Father, you are so good to me. Help me to trust you better. I’m so quick to complain and follow the example of the Israelites. Please change me.

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