About seven centuries before Jesus, the Israelites under King Josiah were remodeling and refurbishing the Temple in Jerusalem. Workers overturned one of the stones in the floor of the Temple and found an ancient scroll - which scholars believe was the lost book of Deuteronomy. Excitedly they brought the scroll to King Josiah who had his scholars read it, and undoubtedly these words are part of what they read, words written centuries earlier for Moses to warn the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land after the Exodus:
“Be careful when you have eaten your fill and built your fine houses and accumulated your possessions, be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God. Be careful that you don’t become haughty of heart and thin to yourselves, ‘I have done this on my own.’ Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God.” (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 8:10-20)
When King Josiah heard those words, he tore his robes as a sign of repentance and ordered the Israelites to stop and have a day of thanksgiving to God. For he realized that the Israelites had done exactly what Moses had warned against. They had entered the Promised Land, become a powerful nation, built their fine houses, accumulated their flocks, and forgotten the Lord their God. They had become haughty of heart and believed they had accomplished all of this on their own. It was time to stop, repent, and offer thanksgiving to God.
That is the crisis of abundance. It is easy to see how poverty can bring a spiritual crisis - we can be tempted to despair and to blaming God. But at least being poor can help a person to know their dependence upon God and others (as Jesus notes in his Beatitudes in his Sermon on the Mount). However, being rich and living in abundance brings its own crisis - the crisis of believing that we are our own self-made man or woman, the crisis of what the Bible calls “haughtiness of heart.”
So, we need Thanksgiving. We need to stop and remember that we are blessed. We need to confess that we too often forget God when things are going well. We need to give God the credit for our blessings and our ability to work and earn a decent life.
Don’t fall prey to the crisis of abundance. Remember to give thanks.
from Bishop Michael J. Coyner,
Indiana Area of The United Methodist Church
“Fruitful leadership for vibrant congregations making faithful disciples of Jesus Christ”