For many, the iconic, self-made millionaire is the epitome of American life. The familiar, if not trite, mantra goes something like this: “Work harder than everyone else now, and collect your millions later.”
There’s no denying many people have made their fortunes from hard work, long days and lots of sweat. This is commendable and even admirable.
But the storyline for self-made millionaires is often exceedingly self-congratulatory: “I made my millions, because I got up earlier and stayed later than anyone else around me. That’s the price of success most aren’t willing to pay. I am.”
These words scrape against the grain of faith-talk from believers who confess God as their Jehovah Jireh: “my God who provides.”
Can we have it both ways? Can double credits for our wealth be issued to both God and ourselves? Can we boast simultaneously about God and “pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps”?
Both the short and long answers are: “No.”
Remember how Moses warned the Israelites about the danger of taking credit for their success and subsequent wealth in Canaan: “Then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth...” (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
There’s no wiggle room here. When it comes to our wealth, claiming “we deserve it” and “God has blessed us with it” can’t be reconciled. It’s either one or the other. Never both.
So, is there a way forward? What’s the one thing we can do to avoid gloating about our wealth and give God the glory instead?
This instruction is the basic roadmap Moses gave to Israel for Canaan. He said, “When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God ... Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today” (Deuteronomy 8:10-11).
Jesus patterned His living the same way, telling His disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).
Because its constant rhythm reminds us of our way with God. As our acting, speaking and relating are shaped by Christ, we connect the dots between God’s abiding presence and His daily provision.
Before long, the misguided, self-made mantra is traded for one true core belief: Everything we own comes not by our own power and resourcefulness but directly from the hand of God.