Israel was a spreading vine; he brought forth fruit for himself. As his fruit increased, he built more altars; as his land prospered, he adorned his sacred stones. (Hosea 10:1 NIV)
Have you ever done something and been abundantly rewarded for it? What does the reward motivate you to do? We’d like to think we’re more intelligent and mature than Pavlov’s dogs, but the truth is we like positive feedback of all kinds. Most of us can be controlled to some extent by the praise we receive. I’m certainly one of those people.
Here’s the danger: When our behavior is evil, and the results are good from our perspective. In Israel’s case they adopted the worship of Baal. Baal worship encouraged them to break many of the 10 commandments, but the results appeared to be good crops. The result in Israel was predictable. If a little Baal worship resulted in good crops, then more Baal worship would produce bountiful crops. When Baal worship abounded, and prosperity increased. God and His commandments and sacrificial system weren’t needed.
Satan’s greatest weapon against those who do not believe in God may be pain and suffering. However, I think his greatest weapon against the believer is prosperity that gets connected with behaviors that compromise our trust in God. I think this is why the prophets make such a big deal about not keeping the Sabbath. Sabbath keeping is a radical expression of trust in God.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
Jesus’ solution for this struggle is to change our priorities. Rather than seeking success, prosperity, significance, or security we seek God’s kingdom and God’s way of doing things. The challenge is that we are tempted to run an experiment believing that God’s kingdom operates on the same time principles of cause and effect that we are used to in the rest of life. We try to put God first and when something happens, we have a tough time seeing our fulfillment of “all these things”. If we’re thinking about here and now we are likely to find these experiments frustrating. Equally dangerous will be an experiment with putting ourselves first. Satan might make sure that we immediately receive “all these things”. What do you do with that result? Do you follow Israel and forget God, or do you continue to follow Jesus and trust God?
For my grandchildren:
Trust in God cannot be an experiment. You either trust God or you don’t.