by Pastor Vera Guebert-Steward
“Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God… 12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land
of Egypt. 15 Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! 16 He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. 17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ 18 Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant, he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.” Deuteronomy 8
I look at where Mark and I are living. I look at what we own. I look at how far we have come in our accumulation of possessions and wealth and we smile. But in reading these words from Deuteronomy chapter eight, I am reminded that how far we’ve come and how much we own has very little to do with us and has everything to do with God and God’s gracious generosity. This is not to say we can’t affect our own wealth by working hard and managing money well. It is to say, however, that God is the giver of all gifts; gifts of mercy, forgiveness, peace, grace, love, and life itself. How often I forget to give thanks even for the smallest things. And yes, I forget to say thanks for those things I take credit for achieving myself.
In this text from Deuteronomy, Moses’ words are powerful. He is reminding the Israelites that God sustained them in the wilderness; that God provided and protected them every step of the way. Moses even suggests to them that it is God who gives them power to be successful. Even in
Moses’ day there was no such thing as a self-made millionaire.
Walter Brueggemann writes: “Thanksgiving is a contradiction of the values of a market economy that imagines we are self-made and can be self-sufficient. When we give thanks, we commit an act of defiance against the seductions of our society…we may sing all kinds of patriotic songs and feast to satiation on Thanksgiving Day. Beyond all of that is our acknowledgement that life is a gift that evokes response. We are never self-starters. The drive for self-sufficiency is an unnecessary and futile idolatry.”
Some say that they are self-made millionaires. And, the world says we can stand on our own two feet; that all we have belongs to us. The world says the wealth we accumulate is all because of our own efforts. The prophet Isaiah writes: “O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now You have accomplished them.”
God has accomplished so much through our efforts. We have everything to be thankful for. I know without a doubt that all that we are; all
we have comes from God. I pray that in understanding this we are motivated to be more generous than ever with our gifts to support the ministry of Christ’s holy church on the corner of Hi View and Highway 73. Because of your generosity and mine, children’s lives; youth’s lives; lives of the poor and oppressed have been blessed and changed. Our ministries depend on your gifts. And your gifts are your response to the generosity and love of God. May the Spirit move you to take to heart what Moses shared with the people of Israel: “God is the one who gives you power to be successful.” Thanks be to God!