Don’t give yourself a hand (Joshua 17)

The only crime I’ve ever committed is plagiarism.

Yes, despite warnings and reminders and PSAs, in college, I plagiarized a poem. Only it was by accident.

I was in a spoken word group (I know, I know) and I had come up with a cool device to use in my next performance. I had a line about “a broken record” so I decided to stutter my lines like, well, a broken record.

The next time our group gathered for practice, I realized where I had gotten my brilliant idea. Another member had come up with the idea and performed it weeks before I had started writing my own poem.

I was so embarrassed. I wanted to rip up my poem right then and there. I wanted my fellow poet to get the credit she deserved.

Speaking of unusual ideas that hadn’t been done before, the Bible features a few pioneers in Joshua 17. Five, to be exact.

Their names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah, and Tirzah. They were the only children of Zelophehad, a descendant of Manasseh. As inheritance time drew near, they felt they deserved the plot of land that was supposed to go to their family. The only problem was that they were all girls.

A few chapters back they had brought their grievances to Moses, and he had granted their request. Now Moses has passed away, so they sit down with the all-male leadership of Israel and ask again.

It was a short conversation.

Verse 4 declares that “Joshua gave them an inheritance”. Hurray! Girl power!


Credit where credit is due

Brave. Powerful. Feminist icons. These words come to mind to describe the five women featured here. But what’s described above isn’t the whole story.

The full sentence from Joshua 17:4 explains that “Johsua gave them an inheritance…according to the Lord’s command.”

In other words, it’s not the daughters of Zelophehad we should be proud of or grateful for or even cheering for – it’s God. The Lord did it, not those five girls.

And this might seem a bit disappointing or nitpicky because we are human and that means we’re self-centered. We spend all our time thinking about ourselves and our plans and our ideas and our future. When we’re not thinking about ourselves, we’re thinking about other humans.

So when we win or succeed or do something good, we pat ourselves on the back. We give ourselves a hand. We think we did it.

And sure, we did do something. We have free will. We exerted effort. And that deserves to be recognized.

But compare our effort with what God did.

He put breath in our lungs.

He kept our brain functioning properly today.

He answered our prayers.

He blessed us with ideas and inspiration.

He gave us strength to overcome obstacles.

He simply removed plenty of obstacles from our path already.

And we could go on and on.

Zelophehad’s daughters made the request but God gave them the courage. Zelophehad’s daughters sat down with Moses and then Joshua, but God said yes.

God gets the credit. Always. In every situation.

Because no matter what it is, He’s the one that made it possible.

“I am the ultimate reason, the foundation, the support, the definition.”

Maybe this is a small distinction to make, but I know I need the reminder each and every day.

Because every time I feel jealousy or pride, it’s only because I’ve forgotten who’s really in control and who really gets the glory.

Because every time I’m worried I’ll never get my life together, it’s because the only way I ever will is if I give my life and my choices to God.

Because every time something goes right in the world or in my life, I should be thanking and praising God, but sometimes I don’t.

Because I rely on God for every moment, every breath, every blink, every thought. I need Him to live. And I keep forgetting that. We all do.

So let’s take this reminder and tuck it into our back pocket. Let’s stop giving ourselves so much credit.

Instead, let’s thank and praise God for all He does: everything.

What do you think? How much credit do you give God in your daily life?

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