We all understand why hardship can cause trouble in our spiritual life. Sometimes pain, suffering and sickness leads us to question God’s goodness, love, and care. But the Bible reminds us that suffering isn’t the only time we’re tempted to turn away from God: sometimes success, comfort and happiness cause us to forget God. In fact, when times are good, God warns us to be careful – we may be in grave danger.
When Israel was about to enter the promised land, God warned them about the dangers of success:
When the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore . . . to give you – with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant – and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the Lord (Deut. 6:10-12).
Let’s break God’s warning apart to see what we can learn about the dangers of success:
“When the Lord God brings you into the land…” When we’re experiencing success and comfort, we’re tempted to believe that it’s because of our personal talents, work, and ability. But God begins his warning by reminding us that any good thing we experience – whether good grades, good friendships or spiritual growth – comes by his grace. God “brings” us into every good thing, so he deserves the credit and glory, not us.
“. . .houses full of good things that you did not fill.” When we’re successful we’re tempted to find our worth and satisfaction in our material possessions. But God makes it clear that we are to view our possessions not as ends in and of themselves, but as gifts from him. Therefore, when we enjoy God’s material gifts, we need to do so thankfully, enjoying God’s grace and kindness.
“. . .lest you forget the Lord.” Success rarely leads us immediately into outright sinful behavior, like sexual immorality, theft, or unbelief. Instead, success causes us to forget the Lord. During success, God slowly descends our priority list, until we stop thinking about him all together. When God is an afterthought, sin blossoms in our lives.
“. . . take care lest you forget the Lord.” God does not, however, ban success, or even enjoying the fruits of success. He only bans disregarding the giver. As Christians, especially in success, we need to take special care to prioritize God in our lives. Those who do not take care forget about God.
So, how do we take care? There’s one obvious answer: take time to pray and read our Bibles. There’s one less obvious answer: bear our success humbly.
Prideful hearts that take credit for their success become condescending toward the outcast, awkward, and needy. Moreover, when prideful hearts fail, they fall into complete depression, despondency, and self hatred. Only humble hearts bear the weight of success well. They give God credit for every gift and success, so they feel no superiority to others – it’s God’s work, not their work! When they experience failure, humble hearts remain joyful, because their personal worth was never tied to their success.
If you’re successful, take care.