The Prosperity Message

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.” Deuteronomy 28:1-6.

People who believe that God will bestow material blessings on them are not just making it up. There are plenty of places in the scriptures, old testament and new, that make an “if, then” proposition. Jesus Himself said that I if we would seek first the kingdom of God, all the material things we would normally see after would be ours as a byproduct.

Where we go wrong is when we seek the blessings first instead of the one who blesses. Then the things we are seeking first instead of God’s kingdom and His righteousness become idols to us.

Yes, we are blessed if we live lives of obedience. But for some of us, that obedience may call us to a place with the poor and the afflicted. If you can experience joy and contentment in that place, you have something better than material things. You have a transcendent wealth and satisfaction of God’s pleasure in you. If you would rather have money than that, you might be an idolator.

The Warning Label

Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the Lord your God. You shall therefore obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today.”

That day Moses charged the people, saying, “When you have crossed over the Jordan, these shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin. And these shall stand on Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali. And the Levites shall declare to all the men of Israel in a loud voice:

“‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’” Deuteronomy 27:9-15.

Blessings and cursings are part of the whole package. God blessings are not just optional accessories to our lives. If you are His people, you are blessed, but if you deny Him by disobedience, you are cursed. And if you look at the eleven specific curses in the list that follows this, these are things that can’t be done accidentally. They are done on purpose. They are choices. And the last one is:

“‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

We confirm God’s word by doing it. This is also a New Testament principle:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 15:15.

Recalling Your History

“And you shall make response before the Lord your God, ‘A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down into Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a nation, great, mighty, and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O Lord, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the Lord your God and worship before the Lord your God. And you shall rejoice in all the good that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house, you, and the Levite, and the sojourner who is among you.” Deuteronomy 27:5-11.

It is good to recall what God has done in your life. You do it so others may know, and so that you don’t forget. Over the years I have told my story hundreds of times. Sometimes I’m the one who needs to hear it.

A Good Whipping

“If there is a dispute between men and they come into court and the judges decide between them, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty, then if the guilty man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence with a number of stripes in proportion to his offense. Forty stripes may be given him, but not more, lest, if one should go on to beat him with more stripes than these, your brother be degraded in your sight.” Deuteronomy 25:1-3.

It doesn’t say what you were whipped with, but 40 stripes would be the limit before you were “degraded.” The idea was to pass judgment and issue a deterrent. And we have yet to see laws that prescribe imprisonment, if you don’t count being forced to stay married to the woman you falsely accused of adultery. In which case I believe the woman shares that sentence.

I have often thought a good beating was a fit punishment for a bully or a wife beater. Prison is expensive and counterproductive. It is also harmful to the perpetrators ability to support his family.

Leave Something for Others

“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.” Deuteronomy 24:19-22.

The message here runs counter to the ones that say, “get all you can,” and, “don’t leave money on the table.” God tells us to actually limit our profits so that someone else can have a living.

Both Mother Theresa and Gandhi have been credited with saying, “Live simply that others might simply live.” It may have been easier to connect those dots in India, but we can still see how we heap up so many possessions in America that we must periodically haul them to the dump.