The Sin of Self-Reliance

The reading on this Shabbat is from Deuteronomy 31:1-30, from the prophets the reading is also very special because this Shabbat, the one just before Yom Kippur is called “Shabbat Shuva”, The Sabbath of Repentance. The texts that we read from the prophets are Hosea 14:2-10 and Joel 2:15-27, and from the New Testament we read from the letter to the Hebrews 13:1-16.

All the readings of the Torah and the prophets and from the New Testament are always significant and important to read, but these Shabbat Shuva readings, in this time, and with the tribulations that our world is going through during the coronavirus plague, make these readings even more important.

We pray more than one time per day for the Lord to lift this plague of coronavirus off His world and deliver us humans from the horrid fears and results of this man-made plague. However, the much more dangerous and evil plague that has been plaguing the human race around the whole globe is the plague of pride and reliance on ourselves, leaving God out of the picture, and locked up in the four walls of the church buildings, synagogues, and even mosques, and pagan temples.

This sin of pride and self-reliance is throughout the history of Israel, the reason for much of our suffering by the hands of God. Here is the text from Hosea the prophet that demonstrates the sin and the cure of this sin:

“Take words with you, And return to the Lord. Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; Receive us graciously, For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips. Assyria shall not save us, We will not ride on horses, Nor will we say anymore to the work of our hands, “You are our gods.” For in You the fatherless finds mercy.’ I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from him. I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, And lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, And his fragrance like Lebanon.” – Hosea 14:2-6 [NKJV]

We could easily replace “Assyria” in this text with empires like Russia, China, the USA, or any other of these big and powerful countries that we might rely upon and trust that they would come and save us. The most important part of this text is, “Nor will we say any more to the work of our hands, ‘You are our gods.’” This sin is first and foremost a sin of pride, and self-reliance and an enthronement of our abilities, talents, and accomplishments in life, as our gods.

It is the sin of forgetting who is the boss, who runs this world, who makes the sun rise in the morning, and gives light and life to this planet called “Earth.” This is on the one hand, and on the other hand, one of Israel’s collective and sustained sin is to rely on the big empires, like Egypt or Assyria or Babylon, or Rome, and forgetting who is the real power and the true provider of life, food, and security to this nation.

This sin of self-reliance is not only an issue of communities and countries. It is more prevalent among individuals in the West, the concept of, “I am a self-made man!” “I made it in the marketplace!” “I don’t need anyone and no one helped me – all that I am and all that I have has come from my hard work, from these two hands.” I have heard people who are leaders, elders in churches, say these words in-front of their wives, and their fathers and mothers who raised them and fed them and educated them.

Notwithstanding that the Lord God who created the very planet and the dirt that we are standing and walking on, and who keeps our planet spinning around the sun every day and every second. We are even commanded in the New Testament not to make plans and not to endeavor into programs and journeys without saying for everything, “God willing!”

I hear Middle Eastern Jews (Jews from the Arab countries – Iraqi, Egyptian, Moroccan, in general Sephardic Jews) say several times a day “with God’s help” or in Arabic “Inshallah.” Very, very seldom, if ever, do I hear pastors, preachers, elders, or just normal Christians plan things and start things and say, “God willing!” I will go or do this or that.

This is a clear indication that they ignore the command given by Jacob the brother of Yeshua (Jesus) who wrote the letter of Jacob (James). Here are the words of Jacob and his instructions for us:

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” – James 4:13-16 [NKJV]

We see that the apostle Paul did exactly what Jacob (James in English) commanded and recommended all disciples of Yeshua to do.

“…but took leave of them, saying: ‘I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.’ And he sailed from Ephesus.” – Acts 18:21 [NKJV]

If we examine the words of Jacob (James) and his instructions we would see that the problem is divided into three parts:

  1. “We will go.” – “We will spend a year there!” – “We will buy and sell, and make profit…”
  2. We presume to know what will happen tomorrow or even if tomorrow will ever come for us, or even for the whole world.
  3. When you don’t make it clear that your life is as a God-fearing person, and understand and rely on the Creator of the world, who gives life, breath, health, and blessings, according to Jacob the brother of Yeshua, you are actually, “boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.