“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9.
Affluence tempts us to deny our need for God and to embrace the fallacy of self-sufficiency. When we have more than enough, it is easy to convince ourselves that we can get along fine without God, if indeed there is a God, that we are not beholden to him for anything, and that what we have is the result of our own hard work, wisdom and diligence. When we don’t need anything, we are susceptible to the lie that we can live and thrive without God.
Just ask Rehoboam.
Solomon was the wisest and richest man who had ever lived. When he died, his son, Rehoboam, succeeded him as king of Israel. Though he inherited Solomon’s wealth, Rehoboam did not receive his wisdom. Rehoboam rejected the counsel of his elders in favor of the advice of his peers and treated the people harshly. As a result, most of the nation rebelled against him, dividing Israel into a northern and a southern kingdom. Rehoboam reigned in Jerusalem over the southern kingdom of Judah.
Sadly, “after Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.” 2 Chronicles 12:1. Consequently, calamity followed. When Rehoboam and his leaders humbled themselves and acknowledged God, the Lord delivered them from total destruction.
Such was the cyclical history of Israel. Obedience brought blessing, which led to forgetting God, which brought judgment. Fortunately, judgment led the people to repent and to remember and obey the Lord. They were then blessed…until they once again abandoned God.
We may be tempted to say, “Get a clue, people!” until we consider the United States of America today and ask whether we are just as foolish as Israel.
After our country was established and became strong, we, too, abandoned the law of the Lord. Instead of seeking Him, we have pursued money and what money can buy, relying exclusively on it for our security. We have rejected the higher ways of God for the ways of man.
Consider the words of Soviet dissident and author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who, in a speech delivered almost 40 years ago to Harvard University’s 1978 graduating class, declared that the West has become morally impoverished because it has forgotten God and others, mistaking the excess acquisition of material things for happiness. Solzhenitsyn described “the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness,” a disaster in Western culture that he said had been unfolding for some time:
“We turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which has imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs.”
Solzhenitsyn lamented America’s spiritual poverty in light of the fact that at the time of our nation’s birth, “all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature…. freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility.”
Neither God nor our founding fathers ever intended to grant people unlimited freedom. Reasonable restrictions on personal liberty are good for individuals and necessary for a healthy and happy society. But the West has increasingly rejected God-given restraints in its relentless pursuit of materialism. It turns out that many Americans don’t really want freedom of religion; they want freedom from religion and religious responsibility to God and their fellow man.
“We have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life….
If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them.”
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn “A World Split Apart,” speech delivered on June 8, 1978, at Harvard University.
Because America has rejected the law of the Lord in favor of the pursuit of self and the things of this world, judgment is imminent. And judgment is not just imminent, but necessary to remind us that unrestrained personal freedom is not in our best interest, that we cannot survive and thrive without God.
God commands us to love him and to love others because he knows that this is the path to peace and happiness, not the love of money and material things. The good news is that when the painful consequences of our foolishness cause us to humble ourselves, repent and turn back to the Lord, he forgives our sin and restores us into fellowship with him where we enjoy his favor and blessing.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Help us to get a clue, Lord. Please give us just enough and not too much, so that we will remember you, enjoy your blessing and save ourselves a world of hurt.