Thursday

“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.” (vv. 17-18)

Deuteronomy 8:11-20 Thursday 4 July 2013


Background

How many people would have called themselves wealthy at the timewhen the book of Deuteronomy was first made known (2Kings 22:8)? Probably rather few. A century or so earlier, theprophet Amos paints a picture of a society divided between the richfew, who could live in houses of ivory (Amos3:15), and the poor majority, cheated even when buying theirfood by false measures (Amos8:5).

But for those who were comfortably off, there was an acutetemptation to think that their financial security was due to theirown hard work - the 'self-made man' (or, possibly, woman) of thetime. Deuteronomy does not criticise those who are wealthy justbecause they are rich. In a world where many faced absolutepoverty, the book makes no bones about the benefits of havingenough to live well. That socio-economic climate shaped a differentset of questions to those faced in the affluent West, where so manyneed to hear Christian Aid's challenge to "live simply, sothat others may simply live".

The criticisms of this passage are directed rather at those whoforget that they would have nothing if God had not given it tothem. It hints that it really matters to focus on God's generousgrace, because of its impact on the people's covenant relationshipwith God. Their level of material comfort is a sign of the realityof God's covenant, and of God's good intentions towards the people.God recognises that it matters that people don't have to faceabsolute poverty, and this is part of God's commitment to us. Butif people forget that God is the source of their wealth, then theyare likely to lose sight of the reality that God is the only trueGod. In a world where folk believed in many deities, it was alwayshard for Israel to maintain its exclusive relationship with God -but the consequences of not doing so were catastrophic.

God gives generously to the people in the desert, feeding themwith manna (Exodus 16), giving them water from nowhere (Exodus17:1-7), guiding them in the wilderness (Exodus13:21-22) and protecting them from all its dangers. So thispassage also carries the suggestion that those who have resourcesof their own need to share in the generosity of God, from whom allthese good things come.


To Ponder

  • Where does you think the balance come betweenhaving enough money and having too much?
  • How can you show in your life your understanding that yourresources come from God and not from your own efforts?
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