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Beware of Pride: Wealth and Inequality in Deuteronomy

Chapter 8 of Deuteronomy starts with Moses reminding the Israelites of their humbling experiences, as well as the care and protection that the Lord provided them in the wilderness.

In verses 7 through 9 (KJV) Moses paints a picture of the promised land which awaits them. In verse 9 has says that this will a “land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it…”

With it also being a “land of brooks of water” (v. 7) and “a land of oil olive, and honey,” Moses’ promised land sounds very similar to Rousseau’s depiction of nature. For Rousseau, nature has sufficient for our needs and wants. Only through the corrupting forces of so-called “civilization” do we start to desire and hoard more than we need. In the process of becoming civilized, we destroy the balance found in nature and what results is deprivation, starvation, and oppression.

In politics and economics we usually assume a certain amount of scarcity, so for me it is hard to imagine such conditions of abundance, whether the abundance described by Moses or the abundance described by Rousseau. Yet, this is a condition which does not last, because of the pride of man. For Rousseau, this pride is a defining characteristic of modern civilization.

In verse 10, Moses instructs us to “bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.” When we partake of the Lords abundance, we must be humble rather than claiming the credit for ourselves.

However, this humility does not last as our hearts are “lifted up, and thou forget the Lord the God..”

We soon find ourselves in the condition described in verse 17:

“And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.”

The condition described in verse 17 seems to describe a dominant form of thinking in modernity. Rousseau warns of the inequality, cruelty, and brutality that comes from such a view. However, this concern is also found in ancient scripture and philosophy.

Pride not only destroys our soul, but it leaves us numb to the well-being of others. Pride destroys our families. Pride destroys our communities, both large and small.

Pride destroys. Beware of it.

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