“Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Issac, and to Jacob.
“Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.” (Deuteronomy 9:4-6)
The more we follow Christ and work on our sanctification, the greater the temptation there is to look down on those around us or be prideful. When we are blessed, it can be easy to accept the gifts God gives us without gratitude, but feeling as if we deserve it for our work. How many times do I look down on other people, judging them, and thinking that they are getting the life they deserve?
As the above passage shows, we do not inherit the kingdom by our own works, but because of the works of Jesus. The warning to the Israelites is a warning we still need today. I’m sure many of them felt above the rest of the nations and took pride in thinking that they were better than everyone else. They were God’s chosen people and many probably felt that they earned that right. But the narrator of Deuteronomy quickly reminds them of their grumbling and stubbornness during the exodus – how they didn’t trust God, and he led them anyways. It was God’s mercy, love, and covenant promises that saved them, not their own works.
When God leads me out of slavery in my own life, out of the trials and problems I face, am I praising him for the work he did or pridefully accepting a trophy for my great work in rescuing myself? I have to be willing to let God do the work, but it is still HIS work, not mine.
As we grow in Christ, many of the old sins fade away, but new temptations arise. And worse, pride and arrogance are usually much harder for us to recognize. Just because something was easy for us to overcome doesn’t mean it is easy for our neighbor. God challenges each of us in different areas of our life, and we shouldn’t judge or put others down because they are struggling. The greatest temptation in overcoming a challenge is thinking that you did it by your work. Sure, we act and even believe that we are blessed for what God has done for us, but if we’re putting down others what does that say about who we really believe is responsible?
I think this is one of the justifiable arguments that the world has against Christianity. Many have followed Christ, only to tarnish his name by putting down others and being judgmental. This doesn’t mean that we accept sin and accommodate it, but we loving help others overcome sin and to follow Christ as equals, not as superiors.
As we walk into the Promised Land, may we not pat ourselves on the back, but look to the One who led us here. Let us recognize that even if we are a changed person, we are still sinners and have not earned the right of salvation any more than the prostitute or drug dealer, but by the blood of Jesus Christ. Let us walk with gratitude and humility.