By David Baumann
A Reading from Deuteronomy 6:10-15
10 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, 11houses 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, 12take care that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear. 14Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you, 15because 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.
My wife listened to a podcast recently in which the speaker said, “The past couple of generations have grown up in luxury. They’ve had every desire fulfilled, and have never suffered.” The speaker concluded, “Therefore the fields are white for harvest.” It might be unfair to say young people have never suffered, but her point was that even when the ways of the world flood a generation with material goods, it leaves it unsatisfied. “Things” cannot satisfy, cannot provide ultimate meaning or lasting joy.
It is a striking lesson. It is not so much intense suffering or rank injustice that turn people away from God in great numbers, as so many assume; on the contrary, it is luxury. Churches were packed for a generation after World War II, and for a short time after the terrorist attacks in September 2001. Suffering showed people their need of God. On the other hand, I had a parishioner once who received a large inheritance, and at the church door told me, “I don’t need you anymore.” And I never heard from her again until her family contacted me to arrange for her funeral.
Today’s warning is about these very things. God warns the children of Abraham that once they have come into the promised land with all its beauty and bounty, they should be wary of the temptation to forget him and find satisfaction in stuff. And the pitfall is not just having lots of cool stuff; it’s that the cool stuff is a subtle and deceptive path to worshiping the “gods of the people around you.” And the hazard in forgetting God is losing God, coming under his anger, and — if it goes far enough — being wiped off the face of the earth (!).
Psalm 73 summarizes this very issue thoroughly, and concludes with this opulent verse: “Having you, O Lord, I desire nothing upon earth.”
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 47 years, mainly in the Diocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Springfield. He is now retired and has published nonfiction, science fiction novels, and short stories.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of South Ankole (Church of the Province of Uganda)
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Morristown, N.J.