Life: Stand down

 • The Bibles Studies for Life lesson for Oct. 27 focuses on Genesis 13:1-18.

There’s a four-letter word all my children learned without any help from me—“mine.” For toddlers, everything is “mine.” If I like it, it’s mine. If I want to play with it, it’s mine. If someone else has it, it’s still mine. If I used to have it, it’s mine. If I wish it belonged to me, then it’s mine. Anything I see and want must be mine.

Thankfully, we outgrow the “mine” stage fairly quickly—most of the time. But I still have my own list of things that are mine. My house, my car and the things in my closet are all mine. The money in my bank account is mine. My time is mine. My identity and image are mine. My church is mine. When someone or something threatens what I have labeled “mine,” I get defensive. Conflicts arise when I try to protect what is mine. That was the situation Abram and Lot found themselves in.

Abram and Lot

When Abram left Ur to follow God’s call, he took his nephew, Lot, along with him. Lot stayed with Abram through the famine and their disastrous stay in Egypt. Both men grew rich and powerful, but their abundant blessings soon stirred up conflict between them. The land could not continue to support their numerous herds and flocks. Their servants began to fight, presumably over grazing and water access. Something had to be done.

Abram took the initiative in seeking reconciliation. Because the land could not support them together, Abram and Lot would have to separate to ensure adequate grazing and water for their flocks. As the elder and leader of the family, it was Abram’s right to make the first choice. Instead, Abram let Lot choose first. As Lot surveyed the land, he saw the rich Jordan valley. The text describes it as “well watered, like the garden of the Lord” (v. 10). Lot’s choice was based on what he saw, but he did not recognize the hidden dangers of the fertile valley. Two of the cities of the plain were Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot pitched his tents near Sodom, not considering “the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord” (v. 13). Lot’s choice sealed his eventual fate (Genesis 19:1-29).

Abram, however, lived in the land of Canaan. God honored Abram’s choice by renewing his covenant with Abram. God had called Abram to go “to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Now the Lord told Abram to open his eyes and see: “The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you’” (Genesis 13:14-17). Abram had set out on his journey by faith, not knowing where God would lead him. Now that faith was rewarded. What Abram generously had relinquished, God gave back to him through faith.

Abram's difficult choice

Abram would have had every right to protect what was his by telling Lot and his herdsmen what to do. He had the power and authority to take the best land for himself. Instead, Abram valued his relationship with Lot more highly than protecting his wealth. In Egypt, Abram had attempted to protect himself by lying and claiming Sarai was his sister, not his wife. Although he gained wealth from the encounter, Abram’s lie almost led to disaster when Sarai was taken into the palace. It took God’s direct intervention to rescue Sarai from Pharaoh.

In the conflict with Lot, Abram made a different choice. Instead of using his own resources to protect what was his, Abram humbly allowed Lot the freedom to choose. Abram’s actions demonstrate his desire for peace with Lot, as well as his increased reliance on God. Abram didn’t have to worry about what was his. God would keep his promises (Matthew 5:5).

Like Abram, we also can trust God to keep his promises. Instead of going through life with the goal of preserving what is ours, we can trust a God who meets our needs and honors the sacrifices we make for his sake (Matthew 19:29). In times of conflict, we are called to value others above ourselves and look out for the interests of others as well as our own (Philippians 2:4).

That doesn’t mean being doormats or subjecting ourselves to toxic relationships. Rather, we imitate the character of our Savior who traded a heavenly throne for death on a cross. Our lives should reflect the humility and generosity of our faithful God.

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