Deuteronomy 6:10-12 seems incredibly harsh. As the Lord’s people enter into Canaan, they are given cities that they haven’t built, produce they haven’t grown, and all manner of things they don’t deserve, while the inhabitants of the land are wiped out. It is as if the only and true path to prosperity is to plunder those who have worked, built and sweated to create. Indeed, scriptures of that sort have been used to justify that very type of activity. In context with the next 27 chapters or so, it is an extended metaphor that no matter how we think we have earned prosperity or results, we have not, we are dependent on circumstances.
Some times it seems obvious. A performer born now has much more they can receive than those born a thousand years ago before radio and royalties were invented. Most of this world does not do as well as we do, and it has little to do with how hard we work or how smart we are. Some times it is easy to lose sight of, some times it terrifies. I had a young man whose care was important to me, who came to the realization that the Hispanic families he was involved in charitable service to were filled with people harder working and smarter than he was, with better physical capacity. He became terrified as a result. On the other hand, I remember reading an oil and cattle heiress in the newspaper who was certain that if money was equalized tomorrow, she would naturally become rich again, in spite of never having done any work or exhibited any skill other than being able to create vanity artworks.
It is the power of circumstance and grace that Deuteronomy 6:11 is all about — reminding us that the foundation of our prosperity is not something we created or earned, but is a gift, one that can be preserved or lost, but not one that we have earned.
It is a compelling reminder of how important humility and gratitude are in understanding our place in the world and the importance of grace in our lives, a metaphor for the spiritual in the physical.