Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” (Deuteronomy 8:17)
The self-made man and woman, those are the icons of our culture. Rising up from rags to riches, pulling oneself up by one’s own bootstraps. “God helps those who help themselves.” (No, that’s not a verse from the Bible; Benjamin Franklin said it.)
Israel stood on the threshold of the promised land after 40 years in “time out” for not trusting the promise of God. Now Moses issues this warning to the young nation about to take possession of the land. “Watch out, lest after you’ve eaten your fill and taken count of your herds and houses, you say, ‘I did this.’ Remember the LORD your God who gives you the power to obtain wealth so that he may confirm his covenant.’”
The reason Israel succeeded, the reason any Israelite succeeded in a land that wasn’t theirs was to show that God was true to His Word. It was the Word that created wealth for the Israelites, not their power or cleverness. And the reason for it was that God wanted to show the nations that He was a God who kept His promises.
Our promised land is not a chunk of real estate in the Middle East, but the heavenly city of God. But in the same sense as Israel, no one can say, “I have achieved this by the power of my hand, by my works and my right choices.” It is all by grace, a free gift granted without any merit or worthiness in us.
Our sinful natures would like to take credit for God’s gifts, whether they be the gifts of the Creed’s 1st article - food, drink, house and home - or of the 2nd article - our redemption in Christ, or of the 3rd article - forgiveness, life, and salvation. But these all come from God to us through Christ as He has promised. God is faithful, and He keeps His promises, including the promise He made to you when you were baptized, that you have life and forgiveness in Jesus, your Savior.
By grace I’m saved, grace free and boundless;
My soul, believe and doubt it not.
Why stagger at this word of promise?
Has Scripture ever falsehood taught?
No! Then this word must true remain:
By grace you too will life obtain.
(Lutheran Service Book #566:1