It is GOD alone who gives us the POWER to obtain WEALTH: "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 that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day." (Deut. 8:17-18)
The history of the Israelites can be traced back to God’s call to the patriarch Abraham, to whom God had declared: "I will bless you...and you shall be a blessing" (Gen. 12:2). As part of the Abrahamic blessing, riches and wealth were definitely a big component, and a reward given by God for faithful obedience. In order to educate the Israelites about the goodness of God, Moses now exhorts them to obedience, based on the fact that God gave them a good land with plenty of water (vs. 7), good fertility (vs. 8), and mineral prosperity (vs. 9). The basis of Moses’ exhortation was that it was God who gives the power to obtain wealth; therefore do not disobey Him!
According to Canaanite mythology, all the blessings of nature derived from nature deities whose powers could be unleashed through proper sacrifice and rituals. In contradiction to this, the Israelites must understand that only God was responsible for giving them the power to obtain their wealth. In fact, God would lead them into The Promised Land and there He would care for them in every area of life (vv. 7–10). The Israelites would, however, be tempted to attribute their successes to human ability rather than to divine blessing, and to look upon the land as theirs by human conquest rather than by divine gift (vv. 14–16).
Therefore, God’s purpose was to prepare the people for prosperity through an experience of testing which would turn them again to dependence upon God, and to the realization that it was God who gave them the power to obtain wealth. However, if the people forgot God’s mighty acts on their behalf and attributed their wealth to their own power, Jehovah God would destroy them as He destroyed the Gentile nations in Canaan.
There are two extreme opinions today about the connection between God and wealth. One is that wealth and money are inherently evil and therefore God is opposed to them. The other is that God is just waiting to shower wealth on those who satisfy certain expectations that He has. The statement of Moses to the Israelites that “God…gives you power to get wealth” (v. 18) helps to clear up both these misunderstandings. On the one hand, this statement reveals that ultimately wealth is a gift of God; therefore, it is one of the good and perfect gifts that God provides us (see James 1:17). On the other hand, this statement reveals that we cannot claim wealth as a direct promise from God resulting from our actions, and God is not our divine ATM machine that spits out money when we press the correct keys of His promises.
Let us be clear that Moses spoke these words to the nation of Israel as they were involved in a covenant relationship with God, and this covenant called for blessing of the nation if they kept God’s Law (see Lev. 26:3–5). It was very possible that in the face of abundant wealth, the Israelites would forget that the source of their wealth was their Jehovah God who alone gave them the power to obtain wealth. For people today, who live outside that special covenant that God had with ancient Israel, Moses’ words imply only the general truth that all the wealth we have ultimately comes from God alone!
We should also understand the importance of human responsibility in obtaining wealth. God did not give His people wealth directly so much as He gave them the ability to work their fields and develop their resources so that they prospered. Likewise, we should turn to God for strength and wisdom as we do our work to provide for our needs (2 Thess. 3:6–12; Heb. 2:7). God desires that we use our wealth to bless others. We need the wisdom both to receive wealth without its controlling us; and to see its intent as we bless others with our wealth (Gen. 12:3). To the wealthy, this is what God’s Word speaks: "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy." (1 Tim. 6:17)