The Peril of Plenty

From the very beginning of time mankind has shared in a familiar weakness. That weakness is forgetfulness of the Law of God when things are going well. We often talk about the faith, courage, and fortitude required to make it through the trials and tribulations of life. While it is true perilous times pose a threat to those who are suffering, times of ease and comfort often pose an even greater threat to the Christian’s well-being. When things are difficult and burdensome, some people simply give up, but many times it is the tough times that draw people closer to God. When we are facing difficult times in life we realize more than ever our need for God, and therefore often work harder at following His word. However, when things are going well, the sun is shining, the bank accounts full, our health is superb, food is on the table, and the job is steady, we begin to lose sight of our need for God. Ironically, the times that seem to be perfect are often when the Christian faces the greatest danger. Easy times often produce lukewarm Christians, or even sinful Christians, because it is during the times of ease and plenty that men and women tend to forget their Lord and His law.

Moses understood this concept very well. The nation that Joshua was about to lead into the Promised Land was perhaps the most faithful generation in all of Israel’s history. Interestingly, it was a nation that had grown up wandering in a wilderness. They had never known comfort and luxury. Moses knew the danger this young new nation faced was not the inhabitants of Canaan, but the times of plenty awaiting the Israelites after their conquest. When they lived in large cities they didn’t even build, and enjoyed the food of crops they didn’t even plant, and came to know true comfort, that was when they would be in danger. That is why over and over again Moses warned the Israelites to “Beware lest you forget…” throughout the book of Deuteronomy. Unfortunately, Moses’ warnings would only have an effect for about a generation. Not many years after the death of Joshua, the incredibly blessed nation of Israel would forget God, and begin a cycle of rebellion that would define their history.

The Israelites are not alone in their forgetfulness during times of plenty. In fact, the Bible is full of men and women who did the very same thing. It is important to note that the examples in this article are not individuals that were mediocre or lukewarm servants of God. These individuals were some of the most shining examples of righteousness, and still they fell in times of plenty.

Adam and Eve (Genesis 2-3)

For the first example of man’s tendency to forget the law of God in times of plenty, we need only to barely open our Bibles. There has never been a man or woman who has been as physically blessed as Adam and Eve. Consider their life before their sin. They lived in an incredible paradise; a place of such beauty and wonder that our mind’s eye can’t even fathom its wonder. In this paradise they enjoyed a safety man has never known since then. They had no sickness, no death, and no fear. The animals did not try to harm or molest them. There was no one else trying to defraud them, rob them, or injure them. Beyond this they were completely provided for. Adam did not have to toil all day for a hard earned yet meager meal. God provided all sorts of food for Adam and Eve. Food was abundant. They never grew hungry, never went thirsty, never wonted for anything. They had no worries or stress. They knew no sin. There were no problems that caused them to lose sleep. They were so innocent they didn’t even know what shame was. They had companionship. They were the only two people God actually made for one another. They enjoyed perfect friendship and love together in the greatest paradise. More importantly they enjoyed an open relationship with God Himself. Simply put, things were perfect. And yet, in chapter three we find that the world is not enough. As Satan tempts Eve, she forgets all that she has, and desires the one things she has been denied. She seeks knowledge and power, and even though she has more than anyone could possibly ask for, in the moments before the serpent, she forgets the Lord her God. Eve forgets who is truly in charge, she forgets what is truth, and allows the serpent to deceive her into believing what she knows is wrong. And she and Adam partake of the one thing God had commanded them to abstain from.

In partaking of that fruit, Adam and Eve sentenced mankind to death. They ruined a relationship of God, and set in motion a disastrous trend that would wreak havoc on mankind all the way down to this very day, and that is sin.

Isn’t it amazing that Satan would offer Eve fruit? Why would that be tempting to Eve and Adam? They had all the fruit they could possibly want. They didn’t partake of the fruit because they were hungry or needed the fruit. It wasn’t as if God had forbidden their only food source. Instead, in their plenty they wanted more and rebelled against God.

Noah (Genesis 9)

Not many chapters pass until we find another righteous man sin in a time of great plenty. Like Adam and Eve, Noah and his family literally owned the world. While it was not quite the paradise Adam and Eve enjoyed, it was entirely theirs. The violent race of mankind was eradicated, giving Noah and his family a peace and feeling of safety they had probably never know before. They enjoyed success as Noah became a farmer, and after a century of hard work on the ark, Noah was able to live his life in peace and plenty. In Genesis chapter 9 though, during this time of great plenty and peace for Noah, he makes a great mistake, and his mistake would have consequences for several centuries.

Enjoying part of his plenty, Noah partakes of his vineyard in the form of wine, and does so even to the excess of drunkenness. During his drunkenness, his son Ham sees his nakedness, and instead of acting righteously and covering his father’s nakedness, Ham tells his brothers of their father’s shame. When Noah wakes, knowing what has happened he places a curse on Ham and his descendants.

The sin of Noah in no way excuses the sin of Ham. However, had Noah not lost his own self-control, perhaps Ham would never have committed this sin, and there would be no need for the curse Noah pronounces. That curse would lead to thousands of people through the stream of time living their entire lives in some form of slavery and bondage. That curse would lead to the deaths of thousands of people. Was it Ham’s fault? Yes it was. But it was not his alone. It was also the failure of Noah, because of his lack of self-control in a time of plenty.

David (II Samuel 11-12)

When we find a character who is mentioned to be a man after God’s own heart in the Bible (Acts 13:22) then we should pay close attention to that individual’s story so we can learn how to be like them. When such an individual commits a horrific sin, we need to especially take note, because that shows us even the most righteous can fall when they let their guard down. And so we look to the example of King David.

David was a man of great fortune. While he faced many hardships in his younger years running from King Saul, God had blessed David greatly. God had granted him great victory, great fame, and even gave him the kingdom of Israel. As a king, David knew great success. He enjoyed success in military battle, he had riches, and he ruled a united kingdom. As the most successful king Israel ever saw except for Solomon perhaps, David truly had it all. And yet in his plenty, David forgot his God, and let his morals fall to a degrading low, as we find in II Samuel 11-12. Even this righteous man, this man after God’s own heart, would give way to adultery and murder.

David’s sin of adultery with Bathsheba would have been a sin had he been king or not. However, his sin is made more egregious by the fact that as king, there was no excuse for his actions of unlawfully taking this woman. While Bathsheba was a beautiful woman, no doubt David’s wives he already had were beautiful as well. No doubt there were other women in Israel as beautiful as Bathsheba that were not already married. However, once again, we find an individual in their great plenty, wanting one thing they cannot have. Even worse, to cover his sin and save his pride, David even commits murder by sending the incredibly faithful and worthy soldier Uriah on a suicide mission in battle. Here a man who is known as “a man after God’s own heart” forgets God in his plenty, and allows immorality to wreak havoc upon his life.

We can see in the rebuke delivered by Nathan the prophet, that part of what angered God so much was That David would sin like this after all that God had blessed him with

II Samuel 12:7-8

Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. ‘I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!

David repented, and was forgiven, however irreversible damage had already been done. The child born to Bathsheba from the adulterous affair died because of David’s sins. From that point on David never again knew the peace he once enjoyed. His house would later become a violent family bent on destruction. He would witness rape and murder take place between his own sons and daughters. One son would rise up and seek to overthrow David, and David would see that son die a violent death. The sword never left the house of David, and his later years were full of woe and sadness, all because in his plenty, he forgot the Lord, and fell to great immorality.

Solomon (I Kings 11)

Perhaps no kingdom has ever seen success like the kingdom of Israel under Solomon’s reign. No man has ever been as fortunate as Solomon. God had given Solomon a kingdom, wisdom, innumerable riches, peace from enemies, and even the opportunity to build the beloved temple of God in Jerusalem. As Solomon’s excess continued to grow, he even came to have an excess of wives (I Kings 11:3) which was forbidden in the law (Deut. 17:17). Among this multitude of wives, Solomon marries foreign women, and they turn his heart away from God. There has never been a man that had the pick of women like Solomon. However, with 700 wives and 300 Concubines, his abundance of women caused him to forget his God, even to the point of idolatry.

Solomon forgot all that God had done for him, and gave way to the practices of his wives, setting up altars and idols to false God’s, and committing abomination in God’s eyes. What a sad sight to see the wisest man in the world worshipping false gods. Who could imagine a man so blessed by the one true God could turn away, commit apostasy, and worship dumb idols?

Solomon’s forgetfulness of God in his plenty and his apostasy lead to great disaster. Because of his rebellion, rebellion would occur in his nation. While Solomon enjoyed peace even from other nations, his son would not even know peace in his own kingdom. The nation would be split, dividing into two separate kingdoms. From this split would arise the northern nation of Israel, a nation that never again would truly follow God. Finally that nation’s sin would lead to an exile from which they would never fully return. By the time Jesus came on the scene, all that was left of the once 12 glorious tribes ruled by David and Solomon was two tribes and a half breed known as the Samaritans. We can’t tell how history would have played out, but perhaps if Solomon had been faithful and not forgotten God in his plenty, the nation would not have split, and perhaps the entire nation, not just two tribes, would have been able to one day see the coming of the messiah.

The decisions of these individuals who forgot God in their bountifully blessed lives seem like very foolish decisions because they are. However we are not here to judge these individuals, but to learn from their mistakes. Let their failures serve as a warning to us to beware, lest we forget our God. After all, if individuals like the few mentioned here can fall in times of plenty, so can we. We’ve looked at the only two people that ever truly walked with God. We saw the only man out of an entire world that was worth saving. We’ve seen a man after God’s own heart, the wisest man in the world, and a man so close to perfection he only lacked one thing. And yet from these people we’ve seen rebellion, loss of self-control, immorality, apostasy, and missed opportunity to work for God.

All of these individuals also paid dearly for their mistakes. We must remember, if we forget God in our plenty, we will pay a terrible price as well. Having great possessions, being rich, or living in comfort are not sins. But they do pose a great threat to God’s people. So when we find that we can say we are blessed people in the physical things of life; when things are going well for us, and the world seems to be on our side, we must always remember to “beware, lest we forget the Lord our God.”

Article by: Nate Bibens