The Danger of Prosperity – Forgetfulness

A Chinese pastor once told Dr. Henry Blackaby, “I believe the Chinese church has fared better under persecution than has the American church under prosperity.”

The Hebrew nation was on the verge of entering the promised land, and the danger of prosperity was real. Moses counseled the people about what could happen when they prospered.

Prosperity’s Dangers

Even though Moses spoke centuries ago, the most prosperous nation in the world needs to hear what he said.

Deuteronomy 6:10-12 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build,

Houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill,

Take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

The fiery evangelist Billy Sunday once said, “Don’t pop up your spiritual umbrella and let my words rain on someone else.”

Let’s take Billy Sunday’s advice and apply this message to ourselves.

(1) Isaiah made this observation:

Their land is filled with silver and gold,
and there is no end to their treasures;
their land is filled with horses,
and there is no end to their chariots.

Their land is filled with idols;
they bow down to the work of their hands,
to what their own fingers have made.
(Isaiah 2.7-8)

Prosperity did not draw Isaiah’s audience closer to God. Instead, it produced substitutes for God, as people exalted what their hands created.

Self-examination Question – Have pleasures and possessions taken the place of a love relationship with Jesus?

(2) Paul challenged the church in Corinth, who thought their prosperity allowed them to minimize their devotion to Jesus.

He wrote, “Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you!

“We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute” (1 Corinthians 4.8 and 10).

Much of Paul’s message to the Corinthians attempted to correct their view of possessions and personal reputation.

He taught that the best way of life is one that is activated, captivated, and motivated by the Holy Spirit. Prosperity is found in a relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, not in some new trinket that quickly grows dull.

Self-examination Question – How is my daily walk with God through the Spirit? Is it the most important thing to me, or not?

(3) Through John, Jesus spoke to the church in Laodicea. He identified their prosperity as a seductive issue that cooled their relationship with God.

He said, “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot.

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

“For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3.15-17).

Moses, Isaiah, Paul, and Jesus warned us of the dangers of prosperity.

— Moses cautioned prosperous persons to not forget all that God had done for them.

— Isaiah showed how people would be tempted to make idols out of what they thought produced prosperity.

— Paul contrasted the striving for prosperity and personal reputation with humble service in the cause of Christ.

— Jesus identified prosperity as a stumbling block in our relationship with God.

Self-examination Question – To what degree does this Biblical message about prosperity cause us to re-evaluate our priorities in life? What needs to change?

What We Need To Do

Let’s remember that the Book of Deuteronomy was a sermon that Moses gave to the Hebrew people prior to their entrance to the promised land. There were certain themes that Moses repeated over and over again.

The next three verses are a summary of what we need to do when we become prosperous.

(1) Deuteronomy 6.13The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear.

Rudy Ross has an excellent explanation of the “fear of the Lord” in today’s YouTube video on the Bob Spradling channel.

When we are in awe of God’s character and mighty deeds, we will be willing to take his guidance.

When we know who God is, we will be willing to serve him. It is the greatest privilege in the world to work for God.

A clear-eyed vision will make us desire to align our lives with God.

Self-examination Question – What do I need to do to get a better picture of God’s character and greatness? What adjustments do I need to make for this to happen?

(2) Deuteronomy 6.14 Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you.

The heart of the Hebrew and Christian faith is that there is only one God.

God’s eternal truth is, “The Lord is our God, the Lord alone” (Deuteronomy 6.4).

From the mouth of Peter, we know: “You [Jesus] have the words of eternal life” (John 6.68).

There is only one option when it comes to God. He is the Unique One, He alone is God.

Like Isaiah’s audience, prosperity tempts us to revere human creative ability. As creative as humans can be, we can never be as creative as the Creator of All.

Self-examination Question – What do I need to do to ensure that I never forget the majesty of God?

(3) Deuteronomy 6.15 Because the Lord your God, who is present with you, is a jealous God. The anger of the Lord your God would be kindled against you and he would destroy you from the face of the earth.

Jealousy is the flip side of love. Humans may be jealous because we are self-centered.

God is jealous because he knows what people lose by not living in a loving relationship with him.

When we turn away from God we sow the seeds of destruction. Separation from God dwarfs the spirit and throws cold water on the fire of love.

When we worship prosperity, we can be sure that oppression of the vulnerable is close at hand.

Self-examination Question – Since God is jealous of our love, how can we deny him a loving and obedient relationship?

About This Blog

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel today. Please take a few minutes to listen to Rudy’s insights into the passage.

I am indebted to Peter Craigie’s commentary on Deuteronomy to challenge me and help me understand this book in the Bible.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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