Thursday, February 18, 2016
Lot, who was traveling with Abram, was also rich in sheep and cattle and tents. But the land couldn’t support both of them; they had too many possessions.
[Genesis 13:5-6 The Message]
Whenever I feel a need for mindless entertainment, I watch television game shows. My favorite is Family Feud hosted by comedian Steve Harvey. Two families compete for a chance to win $20,000 and a brand new car. The questions are inane and the contestants’ answers are fodder for Harvey’s suggestive, often risqué jokes. As I said – it’s mindless entertainment.
But at its premise is the age-old truism that greed triggers strife among otherwise decent people. It’s as old a story as that of Abram and Lot; relatives with many possessions between them, but who couldn’t live together because of the quarrels that broke out among their hired hands.
Every family has experienced the same type of conflict at one time or another. It typically follows a death, when relatives fight over an inheritance. Siblings part ways without speaking to each other for years, if ever again.
Many of the controversies that are in dispute in the political arena over government spending, entitlement programs, health care and social services, are rooted in greed. Big business and labor are in constant combat over wages, benefits and working conditions; each side wanting more from the other.
Not even the church can escape it. A common occurrence takes place around this time of the year when the normally calm, faithful church folk, who for months have built up the war chest of their belligerence, ambush the annual congregational meeting to wage a bitter battle over the budget. It’s every pastor’s (and church council’s) nightmare.
Abram decides to give his nephew, Lot, the choice of land in order to avoid conflict. It appears at first as if Lot gets the better of the bargain. But if you read on to the subsequent chapters you know that Lot’s decision doesn’t turn out so well for him or his family.
The difference comes down to the fact that Abram trusts in God’s promises. That seems so difficult for many of us – dare I say, all of us – to do. Lot chose the immediate over the future. And we, like Lot, usually seek the short-term solutions, the quick fixes, based on the bottom line and motivated by selfishness and materialism, which often have negative consequences in the long run. Material wealth doesn’t guarantee a life of prosperity.
Due to our human sinful nature, family feuds will continue. But they don’t have to flourish.
“Everything you see, the whole land spread out before you, I will give to you and your children forever,” God says to Abram. Likewise, God’s abundant blessings are ours. They may not be immediately obvious; they may not even happen in our lifetime, but they will eventually come to pass.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
[Psalm 27:14 NRSV]