Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 7-8, 1 Corinthians 11, Psalm 48
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
This passage rings true today more than ever. In our current world we value our own personal hard work, ingenuity, and ability to make something of ourselves above almost everything else. We preach the American Dream.
As a result, it is so easy as a follower of Christ, to look around when things are going well and say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.”
There have been many phases in my life where God has humbled me in enough circumstances that I am able to step back and truly appreciate the blessings in my life and see his hand on all of it. I can say with confidence, “This was all because of God.”
However, if I were being honest, I must confess that more frequently throughout my life I would express that same spirit of thankfulness towards God out loud to others, while simultaneously trying to convince myself that it is true even as I am speaking the words and a large part of me feels like these successes in my life are mostly me.
We might not consciously think these thoughts, but subconsciously my brain frequently falls into the following pattern: ‘God certainly played a role, blessed me with certain talents and abilities, and brought opportunities into my life; but ultimately I worked really hard, took risks, constantly sought knowledge to improve personally, etc. God obviously played a role, but I deserve some credit too.’
It is extremely easy to fall into false humility. It is incredibly natural to embrace the type of humility that we see throughout our culture where people deflect praise somewhat disingenuously, but even from their delivery you can tell they think pretty highly of themselves.
On the other hand, it is so refreshing to see Christians not afraid of embracing the gifts that God has given to them, fearlessly seek to maximize those gifts, don’t feel the need to artificially deflect praise, but genuinely give all of the glory to God instead; not as a tactic to appear more Christian, but because that is the true posture of their heart.
When I find myself struggling in this area the question I naturally ask is, “Well how do I do that? What should I say in response to someone who is giving me praise for accomplishments or anything else?” I think these questions miss the mark. They are still focused on tactics. They are still worrying about how our response will come off to others. “What will they think when I say that? Will it seem genuine?”
Me, me, me, me, me.
It is akin to reading a self-improvement book on how to build better rapport with others, make others feel important, make people you lead feel more valued, help people feel heard, etc. without actually viewing them as more important, sincerely desiring to understand them better, truly wanting to hear them more, and ultimately having your focus on them instead of your own personal response to them.
It is about the heart, not tactics.
The exact same response of, “Thank you. I really appreciate that. It has been pretty amazing seeing God’s hand through all of it.” can sound very differently depending on how much we actually believe it. It can come off as genuinely understanding where all of our blessings flow from or it can seem like typical false humility from a posing Christian.
It is not about the words, it is about the heart.
Here is the other thing Christians need to embrace; you are not responsible for how they hear your response. You might sincerely believe what you are saying and there still might be jaded people that think you are just giving them a fake line because it is what you are “supposed to say as a Christian”. That is totally ok. If you are worrying about how they interpret your response, you are still thinking too much about yourself. You are still operating from a “me centered” posture instead of centered on Christ.
Give glory to God and trust the result.
For me, whenever I am feeling a bit too proud about any single thing in life that is going pretty well, I try to take a step back and remember how many times throughout my life things just about went off the rails. I take myself back to situations that went poorly or almost went poorly, but where I could see God’s hand redeeming the situation. Immediately my heart is back in a posture of extreme thankfulness.
That is the advice of Moses today to the Israelites. He knows they are on the verge of being the generation that experiences massive blessings at the hands of the Lord and the human nature that is about to set in. He encourages them to always look back. He encourages them to catch themselves in moments of pride and remember the moments of wandering through the desert.
He encourages them to intentionally cultivate a heart of gratitude.
It is advice that we could all use from time to time.
Thought to ponder
Where is my heart towards successes I have seen throughout my life? What are some ‘wandering in the desert’ moments that would be helpful for me to remember to keep my heart truly thankful to God during moments of abundant blessing?