"So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Deut 6:10-12)
Moses spoke these words in the final stages of his life, when the Israelites were still in the wilderness and had not entered yet into Canaan. He understood the inherent weakness of man. He knew that once the people became prosperous and settled down, they would become proud and no longer feel they needed God. In the wilderness, the Israelites had faced adversity. They had nothing to eat, so they depended on the manna God showered down on them; they had no water, so they depended on the water which God poured from the rock; they had no direction, so they depended on the guidance of God's servant; they had no clothes to wear, so they depended on God to preserve the garments and shoes they possessed for forty years. The entire tribe moved safely across the Jordan because of the guidance and protection of God. Yet as their lives grew comfortable and secure, their memories of His grace would grow dim and fade.
Prosperity dulls our senses; we become confident in our own self-sufficiency and lose our "need" for God. We forget or even come to deny that God provides us with all things. The Bible chronicles several examples that demonstrate this danger. For 3 years, Rehoboam followed God and God strengthened his kingdom (2 Chr 11:16-7). But as his kingdom prospered, he abandoned the Lord (2 Chr 12:1). 2 Chronicles 26:15 tells us that "Uzziah was greatly helped until he became powerful." By the help of God, he became greatly respected, and his fame spread. But in verse 16, we learn that as Uzziah became powerful, his pride became his downfall. He became so arrogant that he wanted to enter the temple and burn the incense himself, thereby trespassing against God. The priests, out of love, tried to stop him and point out the wrong. But Uzziah became angryâ€”so swollen with self-importance that he couldn't swallow the advice of othersâ€”and leprosy broke out on him. He was leprous until the day he died.
Finally, we read of Hezekiah, a king God loved. When he realized the severity of his illness, he prayed to God (Isa 38), and God gave him a sign that he would be healed. But after returning to health, Hezekiah received the Babylonian envoys and showed them everything he had, all of his treasures and weapons. This, too, was pride; he wanted to glorify himself by displaying all of his goods. Isaiah told him, therefore, that all of his possessions would one day be carried off to Babylon.
It is exactly at the point where everything goes our way, when we are successful in what we do, that we are at the greatest danger of falling. Our eyes, our minds, our hands, filled with the abundance immediately around us, leave no room for God: for seeing His work, for thinking of His kingdom, for praying for and doing His will. We may turn away from Him and, proud of our accomplishments, forget His grace. We forget that our prosperity and success belong not to us, but, as with everything else, lie within the control of God. Thus, when we are blessed by God, let us be mindful and even more vigilant. Let us remember to give thanks for His loving provision, to put the Provider first in our lives.
"Give me neither poverty nor richesâ€”feed me with the food You prescribe for me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, 'Who is the Lord?'" (Prov 30:8-9).