Posts Tagged ‘earthly wealth and God’s blessings’

Judges 18:1-31 (Part 3 of 3)
Idolatry in the Tribe of Dan

Often, we hear people say things like, “got my bonus today. Feeling blessed.” Or “Just got back from my mission trip and realizing how blessed we are in the United States compared to Haiti.” Or “just got our new car and man are we so blessed by God.” Or “Finally closed on our new house today. Feeling blessed!” Why is it that we equate material things with the blessings of God? On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do? Doesn’t God bless those who are faithful to Him? Not that it isn’t God’s sovereign prerogative to bestow earthly financial blessings upon His children but it is not because there is causal relationship between my earthly financial wealth and my obedience to my Lord and Savior.

When we equate the two, we are saying several things. First, we are saying that God is in the behavior modification business. If we do “x”, then God will reward us with “y” from an earthly storehouse. It is similar to the way that we will most likely reward my 14 month old granddaughter here in a year or so from now when she successfully poops in the potty rather than in her pants. God does not work that way. He does not want us to only obey him because we are going to get some kind of reward from it. Second, to say material wealth is an indication of our blessed state from God is just downright offensive to a Christians around the world who get by on wages for a month that we earn in one or two hours at work here in the United States. Does the fact that the average American earns $50k per year mean that we are innately more blessed than some Haitian Christian who works hard to feed his family on the equivalent of $100 per month. Are we more blessed by God than him? He may in fact be more in love with God than you or I but by our measure of blessing we are saying that he is less blessed than you or me. Third, what if I am living like hell and being hypocritical (going to church on Sunday but living unethically and unlike Christ the rest of the week), but yet I have a successful business or a successful career, is my success an indication of approval from God? And finally, if I am suffering and am not being financially blessed, am I hiding some unconfessed sin? That sentiment is an affront to Christians in countries such as North Korea, China, or any predominantly Muslim country. They are often more obedient to the Father’s will and more in love with Jesus Christ than the average American Christian but yet many languish in prison for refusing to renounce their Savior. But yet by the standards of “feeling blessed” because of some financial gain that has happened to us, they by this measure must be doing something wrong. The evidence of God’s blessing is our earthly success, right? We have the same mentality about our nation and it trickles down to us individually. We think that we are in God’s favor as a nation because we have been so richly blessed collectively with a standard of living that far exceeds 95% of the rest of the world. We must being doing something right in God’s eyes, right? Otherwise, we would not be receiving the payback that we are getting in earthly riches compared to the rest of the planet, right? We can allow ourselves to start thinking that as individuals as well.

That’s the thing that I thought of today when I read through Judges 18 for the third of three reads through it today. Here, we see that the Danites were successful in conquering the lush and wealthy town of Laish. The question that you must raise when you read this passage is, though they were successful in conquering the region and town of Laish, does it make it evidence of God’s blessing? Let’s think about that as we read this passage:

18 Now in those days Israel had no king. And the tribe of Dan was trying to find a place where they could settle, for they had not yet moved into the land assigned to them when the land was divided among the tribes of Israel. 2 So the men of Dan chose from their clans five capable warriors from the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol to scout out a land for them to settle in.

When these warriors arrived in the hill country of Ephraim, they came to Micah’s house and spent the night there. 3 While at Micah’s house, they recognized the young Levite’s accent, so they went over and asked him, “Who brought you here, and what are you doing in this place? Why are you here?” 4 He told them about his agreement with Micah and that he had been hired as Micah’s personal priest.

5 Then they said, “Ask God whether or not our journey will be successful.”

6 “Go in peace,” the priest replied. “For the Lord is watching over your journey.”

7 So the five men went on to the town of Laish, where they noticed the people living carefree lives, like the Sidonians; they were peaceful and secure.[a] The people were also wealthy because their land was very fertile. And they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby.

8 When the men returned to Zorah and Eshtaol, their relatives asked them, “What did you find?”

9 The men replied, “Come on, let’s attack them! We have seen the land, and it is very good. What are you waiting for? Don’t hesitate to go and take possession of it. 10 When you get there, you will find the people living carefree lives. God has given us a spacious and fertile land, lacking in nothing!”

11 So 600 men from the tribe of Dan, armed with weapons of war, set out from Zorah and Eshtaol. 12 They camped at a place west of Kiriath-jearim in Judah, which is called Mahaneh-dan[b] to this day. 13 Then they went on from there into the hill country of Ephraim and came to the house of Micah.

14 The five men who had scouted out the land around Laish explained to the others, “These buildings contain a sacred ephod, as well as some household idols, a carved image, and a cast idol. What do you think you should do?” 15 Then the five men turned off the road and went over to Micah’s house, where the young Levite lived, and greeted him kindly. 16 As the 600 armed warriors from the tribe of Dan stood at the entrance of the gate, 17 the five scouts entered the shrine and removed the carved image, the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the cast idol. Meanwhile, the priest was standing at the gate with the 600 armed warriors.

18 When the priest saw the men carrying all the sacred objects out of Micah’s shrine, he said, “What are you doing?”

19 “Be quiet and come with us,” they said. “Be a father and priest to all of us. Isn’t it better to be a priest for an entire tribe and clan of Israel than for the household of just one man?”

20 The young priest was quite happy to go with them, so he took along the sacred ephod, the household idols, and the carved image. 21 They turned and started on their way again, placing their children, livestock, and possessions in front of them.

22 When the people from the tribe of Dan were quite a distance from Micah’s house, the people who lived near Micah came chasing after them. 23 They were shouting as they caught up with them. The men of Dan turned around and said to Micah, “What’s the matter? Why have you called these men together and chased after us like this?”

24 “What do you mean, ‘What’s the matter?’” Micah replied. “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left!”

25 The men of Dan said, “Watch what you say! There are some short-tempered men around here who might get angry and kill you and your family.” 26 So the men of Dan continued on their way. When Micah saw that there were too many of them for him to attack, he turned around and went home.

27 Then, with Micah’s idols and his priest, the men of Dan came to the town of Laish, whose people were peaceful and secure. They attacked with swords and burned the town to the ground. 28 There was no one to rescue the people, for they lived a great distance from Sidon and had no allies nearby. This happened in the valley near Beth-rehob.

Then the people of the tribe of Dan rebuilt the town and lived there. 29 They renamed the town Dan after their ancestor, Israel’s son, but it had originally been called Laish.

30 Then they set up the carved image, and they appointed Jonathan son of Gershom, son of Moses,[c] as their priest. This family continued as priests for the tribe of Dan until the Exile. 31 So Micah’s carved image was worshiped by the tribe of Dan as long as the Tabernacle of God remained at Shiloh.

Here, in this passage, we see that just because the Danites successfully defeated Laish doesn’t mean their actions were right. Their idolatry showed that God was not guiding them. Today, many justify their wrong actions by outward signs of success. They think that wealth, popularity, or the lack of suffering is an indication of God’s blessing. However, many stories in the Bible indicate that evil and earthly success go hand in hand. Success does not indicate God’s approval. We should not allow any personal success that we have to become the measuring rod of whether or not we are pleasing God. We should always compare our actions to the commands of Scripture (whether we receive an earthly blessing from it or not) to help determine whether we are doing what is pleasing in God’s sight or not. Regardless of whether there is an earthly blessing or not, we are laying up treasures in heaven when we lovingly obey our Lord’s commands.

I don’t think that it says anywhere in the Bible that there is a direct correlation between our earthly comforts and financial windfalls and obedience to God. There is no direct correlation between earthly success and being a faithful Christ follower. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Blessed are those who receive earthly comforts”, “Blessed are those who own a beach home at Ocean Lakes”, “Blessed are those who have incomes in excess of $100k per year.”, “Blessed are those who have the ability to buy a Lexus”. Quite the opposite is true. The Beatitudes do not promise us earthly blessing. Jesus promised us the kingdom of heaven if we live in a manner consistent with God and not live in a manner by which we measure blessing by earthly standards.

Certainly, God may well give us resources in this life that are far beyond what we deserve or imagine but never should we equate the two – blessing and earthly wealth. If God does give us earthly wealth as Christ followers, it is because He expects us to use our wealth to bless others and use our wealth to be generous in a manner that brings glory to Him not ourselves. With wealth, we have the opportunity not to demonstrate how righteous and holy we are but to use our resources generously to help the less fortunate, the widows and the orphans and so on, and to give Him glory by the eternal things that we invest in with our wealth. We must use our wealth to invest in things of eternal value rather that the temporary trappings of this life that will be gone within a few generations.

So, let’s take a moment to disassociate being blessed financially here on earth as an indication of God’s favor. The Bible clearly demonstrates that mostly the opposite is true. If earthly blessings were the calling card of God, everybody would be Christ followers. However, we are citizens of heaven as Christ followers and our principal idea of blessing should be to please God and trust Him to provide for us here, what we need and not necessarily our wants and earthly desires, on earth but richly bless us in heaven.

Amen and Amen.

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