One of the most interesting classes of my undergraduate studies was Sociology – the study of human social behaviors. I learned that when a person is in a situation where the outcome is negative, she will blame the outcome on something outside herself – others, the weather, the referee, unfair distribution of resources, etc. If the outcome of the same situation is positive, she will take credit for the outcome citing her personal skills, talents, brilliance – whatever she perceives attributed to the positive outcome. You see, humans are not fond of taking responsibility for failures but are quite happy to take credit for achievements. Even if a neutral third party observes the exact opposite.
This is not a modern phenomenon; it has existed for as long as there are records of human behavior. Consider the Israelites. In Deuteronomy, Moses is giving his final instructions, reminders and warnings to the people before he dies and they cross into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua.
The land they are entering to possess is already established. There are houses, vineyards, olive groves, fields of grain, flowing streams, pools of water – everything they need to live and live well. The land is plentiful and rich in natural resources. Listen to the warning Moses gives the people . . .
9It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11“But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. . . . 17He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’ 18Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful . . .Deuteronomy 8:9-18
Clearly the possibility existed for the people to take credit for their good fortune. Living in a land so plentiful, building houses and expanding flocks and herds, pride and forgetfulness were imminent. Pride that the achievements were due to their own cleverness and forgetfulness over all that God had done bringing them into the land.
Oh, how easy it is to sit on this side of success and take the credit. Forgetting that God is the giver of all good things, forgetting to return praise for his goodness, forgetting to acknowledge him. No, it is not a new phenomenon. It is ancient.
Forgetfulness leads to disobedience. Pride in my own abilities, my clever ways and ingenuity, my dependence switches from the One who gives me power to be successful, to myself.
When I read this passage again, I am surprised that God isn’t really asking that much from his people. He just wants us to say thank you and acknowledge his goodness.
Have you paused today to thank God for his goodness and presence in your life?That he gives you the power to be successful?