When you get home from church, what do you think of God? During the week, do you think of God for a morning quiet time and then hardly at all for the rest of the day? Or, admit it to yourself, do you remember God at all between Sunday mornings?
How easy it is to go to church, participate in Sunday morning activities, and have the experience wear off before we get back home. Back to the ordinary. Back to the messages of the world around us.
The television ads all try to make us focus attention on all the things we don’t have and make us discontent until we get them. They want to make us go out and buy stuff. Do we need that stuff? If we did, we would know without needing commercials as a reminder. Entertainment, too, serves to show everyone how exciting and “fulfilling” it can be to dump commitments, walk away from rules, and live for the next enticement.
A reminder in the wilderness
“Beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage,”–Deuteronomy 6:12, NKJV
Moses stood before a crowd of people who had grown up as wanderers in the wilderness. Their parents, now all dead, had been a grumbling and discontented lot, but this new generation brimmed with eagerness to enter the Promised Land. There, God would give them cities and houses they hadn’t built and fields they had not prepared for planting. Occupying the land and learning agriculture would not be easy, but they would eventually succeed and prosper. Moses foresaw a new kind of trouble that would arise.
Prosperity can be spiritually dangerous. In fact, that is why the world we live in so easily sets spiritual traps for us. People take prosperity for granted and forget that it is a gift from God. That begins a slippery slope.
- Forgetting God, people begin to assume that they have prospered by their own effort and talent.
- Taking credit for their own success, they begin to assume that they deserve life’s best.
- They become spiritually complacent. God becomes someone to acknowledge, if at all, only as some kind of religious entity who can be appeased by some kind of ritual observance.
- Forgetting God and assuming they deserve the best, they become jealous and envious of anyone who somehow becomes more successful.
- They become resentful when they feel like they don’t prosper enough.
- Jealousy, envy, and resentment drive them to actions that destroy both personal relationships and the social fabric of their community.
- Society becomes dysfunctional because of the multitude of evil acts that follow from evil attitudes.
Does that sound familiar? Doesn’t our own popular culture often glorify the jealousy, envy, and resentment and portray people acting out, but without suffering personal consequences of their actions? Doesn’t commercialism encourage discontentment?
I am not at all opposed to buying and selling. It should be obvious from looking around the page that I want readers to buy books through this site and show interest in the products and services advertised here. But I also want you all to remember God.
Israel eventually acted as Moses warned them against. They forgot God. Instead of being in bondage in Egypt, they fell into bondage in their new homeland. Not only did they fall into bondage to the surrounding peoples that they should have conquered, they fell into bondage to their jealousy, envy, and resentment. They fought each other–tribe against tribe and neighbor against neighbor.
The face of prosperity
Is America prosperous? I know all about the high unemployment rate, the foreclosure rate, all the people who have lost jobs and found only work that pays but a fraction of what they were making before.
But I also know about places like Kasangombe, Uganda.World Vision is wrapping up a fifteen-year relationship with Kasangombe, having helped them rise from crushing poverty to being, compared to many other places in Uganda, a little bit of heaven.
Look at the picture. Instead of having to walk for miles to get water from filthy ponds, the people of Kasangombe can now get clean water from several wells. They have formed their own water commission to take care of them and divide the water equitably. Does that look like a picture of prosperity? It ought to.
The poorest of Americans live better than that. Even the homeless can find clean drinking water more easily. Americans who remember the Lord their God live in gratitude for what he has provided for us. Christians should even be grateful in hard times. As we seek the Lord, we find a closer walk with him and stronger faith. But only if we don’t forget to remember.
Moses pleading with Israel: Public domain, from Wikimedia
Kasangombe well: Friends Serving Uganda (link no longer work as of Jan. 2015)