“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.” — Deuteronomy 8:10
If you’ve been involved in Christianity for more that two weeks, you’ve probably sat around the dinner table with other Christians and prayed before you ate. This is a good practice, for reminds us that God is the source of all the good things in our life. However, I think our practice of praying before a meal can become nothing more than a religious habit, especially when we are in the presence of other Christians. To be honest, the only time I ever pray over a meal is when I’m with someone else. Otherwise, I just jump right in and eat.
Although I believe that gratitude for the gifts of God needs to be a 24/7 attitude, I find I’m usually grateful on a ½ /1 basis. That is, about a half hour one day a week. Then I go and stumble upon Deuteronomy 8:10 and I feel like a worm.
Deuteronomy is the farewell address of Moses to the Israelites. Deuteronomy means “repetition of the law,” since God gave all the commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai in the first year of the Exodus. Since most parents get really serious when they repeat something to their children, I figure God was very intentional about helping us learn the lessons found in this book.
Deuteronomy 8 is God’s reminder that we are to remain in an attitude of gratitude, and He encourages us not to forget that He brought us out of our desperate situation and into a place of abundance. God commands us to give thanks after we have eaten, otherwise “your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God” (8:12). Moses goes on to warn, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (8:17).
It’s the “after” part that I keep stumbling over. I’m usually grateful after a big ordeal, like just missing getting in a car accident or finding out I got an “A” on a big exam. However, I’m not so thankful after the little things, like a simple lunch, or a warm home, or a car that gets me to work. I worked hard for those things, so….so I just forgot that it is God who gives me the ability to produce wealth. How easily I slip into thinking my life is entirely of my making.
I also noticed that God doesn’t say to thank Him for the meal we just ate, but for the good land He has given us. The principle is to be grateful for the entire supply of God’s goodness, not just the meal we just consumed. Thanking Him for the land, and not just the meal, is to be grateful for all His provisions: job, house, family and nation. It is a remembrance of the fact He brought us out of a land of sin and slavery and into a place of milk (abundant livestock) and honey (plenteous and sweet fruit and orchards).
In light of this passage, I’m developing a new prayer. “Lord, help me to thank You for all Your goodness before AND after I have enjoyed them. And if I forget to thank You, I’m asking You to remind me. It may take a while, but I want to make thankfulness a 24/7 habit. Amen.”