17–23 April 2016.
In English we have the expression “a self-made man”. Originally this described someone who became rich and wealthy through their own hard work, rather than by inheriting lots of money from their family.
But these days this expression is not always a positive one. That’s because the mentality of the “self-made man” can often be a self-centered and proud one, one that overlooks the way that so many other people have helped that person to reach his current successes. The so-called “self-made man” often has a wife that helped and supported him, family and friends that used contacts and connections for his benefit, a government and society that provided support and protection for his business – but then he stands up and proudly boasts how he succeeded all on his own without anyone’s help! In the end, those who claim to be self-made men are often blind, not seeing all the many, many hands that have been holding them up and supporting them along the way.
It is exactly this problem that God wants the Israelites to avoid in Deuteronomy 8 and 9. Moses’s message for Israel is that they should never boast or think highly of themselves, as if they achieved everything on their own. Without God’s help they would be nothing!
Because of our pride we are all so quick to forget this. In times of trouble we quickly come to God in prayer asking for his help. But when things go well, we forget God, we ignore God, and we proudly tell ourselves how we are now succeeding all on our own! We forget that it’s God’s hands that have been lifting us up every single day.
But there’s something even worse. When things go well sometimes we think that God is blessing us for being so good and righteous. In chapter 9 Moses wants to make sure that Israel never ever thinks this. Their successes have nothing at all to do with their righteousness; after all they have been a terrible, stubborn, and unrighteous people for 40 years! Any success they have is not because they earned it by being righteous, but only because of the grace and support of God. That’s a good reminder for us today, too.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis