“The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 30:9-10)
Keeping the commandments impacts our prosperity. We have a clue to how this works in the fourth commandment. “Honor your Father and your Mother, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Want to live a longer life? Do what your parents tell you when they warn you not to play with matches, or to look both ways before you cross the street. Want to live a life free from deadly disease and broken relationships? Don’t commit adultery, keep yourself pure until you are married, and follow God’s commands governing your sexuality. Want to feel content and secure with the things you own? Don’t steal from others or covet what they have. The Lord knows his commands make our lives healthier, happier, more prosperous.
There is just one problem: Sin. Look at the people to whom Moses wrote. The Lord freed Israel from slavery in Egypt. He led them to the promised land, flowing with milk and honey. Yet their whole history was a never ending litany of turning their backs on their Lord and embracing sin. In response he disciplined them by letting their enemies overrun them for awhile. The farther they wandered from the Lord, the less prosperous they became.
Look at us. We all choose the path of sin instead of the path of God. What do we get for it? Don’t we rob ourselves of peace and joy? Don’t we lie to cover our tracks? Don’t we become defensive and oversensitive? It shouldn’t surprise us if one way the Lord deals with sin is by taking away our prosperity. At the very least, he takes away our ability to enjoy it. We deal with our children the same way. If they defy the rules of the house, we don’t let that go. We take away their privileges. We apply some pain to their backsides. We take away their “prosperity” to shape them up. If the Lord does the same for us, be thankful. Beyond discipline lie death and hell.
Let’s not misunderstand Moses. He wasn’t a preacher of the modern day “prosperity gospel.” He isn’t saying every downturn in our earthly well-being can be linked to one single sin. He isn’t suggesting that we can line up the members of our congregation from richest to poorest and conclude the richest are the most godly, and the poorest are the most sinful. He does mean that God disciplines people for sin, all sin, even sin in general (Hebrews 12:4ff). The prosperity I lack is one of the many curses I suffer because I am sinful.
There is only one solution to sin, and that is our Savior. That is why Moses urges, “…turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” Moses taught his nation about “the Lord, the gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7). We know this Lord as Jesus. His death on the cross is the answer to sin and everything about it. It takes away all our guilt. There isn’t one spot of sin left. It takes away the curse. Since Jesus’ sacrifice restored peace between God and man, the Lord no longer has any reason to be angry with us. The curse of sin is gone, and we can prosper.
God measures prosperity differently than we do. Martin Luther once said, “Earthly riches are the smallest gift God can give to a man.” Don’t overlook the real treasure God has given. Forgiveness is our possession now. Peace with God is our possession now. A mansion in heaven is our possession now. No matter what our lot in life, we have prosperity because our treasure is in heaven.
We don’t keep the commandments to manipulate God into blessing us. Even if they had no impact on our prosperity, gratefulness for our salvation is reason enough to obey. No matter how much or little we have in the bank, in God’s saving work we prosper.
Photo By Sammyday - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18604145