“Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘my power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deut 8:17-18)
These words could have easily been written to 21st century Americans. Moses was worried that once Israel inherited the Promised Land they would reap God’s blessings, look around at their wealth, and think to themselves, “Look at how great I am!” Throughout Deuteronomy Moses warns Israel about the dangers of prosperity. His warnings still ring true 3,500 years later.
With prosperity often comes pride and narcissism. It is natural to survey the work of our hands and take pride in our accomplishments. But when the pride developed from wealth grows unchecked, we become the people Moses warned Israel not to become. Take to heart Moses’ remedy for this kind of pride: “Do not say in your heart…‘it is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to posses this land’” (Deut 9:4).
With prosperity comes added temptation. Paul warned Timothy that, “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim 6:9). Jesus was even more explicit when he warned, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:25). With the pursuit and possession of wealth also come the increased temptations of greed and selfishness.
With prosperity comes the feeling of self-sufficiency. In the Song of Moses (Deut 32) Moses painted the picture of a man who had grown fat on God’s blessings. But instead of giving thanks to God for them, he promptly “forsook God who made him.” Jesus rebuked this mindset when he described the Christians in Laodicea: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17). Every Christian, especially those as blessed as we are, need to be reminded that we can never be spiritually self-sufficient.
We live in one of the most prosperous times and places the world has ever seen. There are so many great things about living in 21st century America. But there are also dangers associated with it. Wrong attitudes are easily developed, the devil has another opportunity to tempt, and it becomes easy to forget that without God we are nothing.