Summary: Abram’s leadership manifests itself in his ability to resolve conflict. Lot’s character (and downward spiral) is revealed in the choice he makes for himself and his family. We can choose to yield our rights when we’re secure in knowing that God will tak
“Conflict and Choices” Genesis 13:5-18 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
People can be difficult! They’re often unreasonable, stubborn, and self-centered. Working with people presents thorny challenges. We all want to get along, but personality differences can hinder harmony; conflicting priorities can get in the way. Abram was no stranger to conflict, but in dealing with his nephew Lot, he shows that interpersonal issues can be resolved. Abram’s leadership manifests itself in his ability to resolve conflict. Lot’s character is revealed in the choice he makes for himself and his family.
This is the first time that wealth is mentioned in the Bible, and it causes a problem. Material affluence is not always a blessing. Abram was a wealthy man, and prosperity also visited his nephew Lot. Their herds had grown to the point of becoming unmanageable upon the land they commonly shared. How much family unrest is caused by disputes over money and possessions? Their problem and parting would not have been necessary had Abram not ventured to Egypt, out of the will of God. Their increased livestock came from Pharaoh, and from Abram’s scheming. While there’s no indication of antagonism between Abram and Lot, a germ of tension was growing among their herdsmen. Something had to be done to resolve the developing discord.
Abram takes the initiative; he doesn’t wait for the situation to worsen. A true peacemaker, he generously allows Lot to choose where to relocate his livestock. Abram’s proposal shows true magnanimity; as the tribal patriarch, head of the clan, he could have insisted on his rights. The land was his. He had the right to decide the issue and tell Lot what to do. Sometimes we get hung up on our rights; we feel indignant when we don’t get what we think we deserve. We may even become unpleasant and overbearing in our effort to get what is rightfully ours. People who become embroiled in struggles over power and control transform into very unpleasant individuals. Rather than seek to resolve conflict, and bring about a peaceful resolution, they only focus on winning. It may be beneficial to surrender our rights. Otherwise we may gain the world but lose our souls.
Tension was mounting between Abram and Lot, amid the heathen Canaanites, who were watching and listening. How do you handle disagreements? Do you negotiate, fight-to- win, give-in, resist, or avoid conflict altogether? At a recent Gordon College chamber music concert, a husband-wife piano/cello duo showed that they did more than make beautiful music together. They had learned to resolve differences. In a question & answer time after the performance, someone asked how they handled their conflict. The husband stated, “Disagreements are helpful; they enable us to consider different ways of trying things.” That’s admirable, because many people don’t care to consider alternative courses of action.
Every day we are faced with choices, and some may have far-reaching outcomes. As we make decisions, we need to ask ourselves 3 important questions: How will my decision affect me, others, and the reputation of my faith? We do not face ethical dilemmas alone; we have the word of God, the counsel of fellow believers, and the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us in making the right choices. We may face tough decisions but we’re never alone or in the dark.
Lot takes full advantage of Abram’s generous offer. He doesn’t think to give his uncle first choice. In so doing, he begins a gradual, downward spiral of character. All that’s left for Abram is a fairly undesirable area, not nearly as fertile or well-watered as Lot’s location. But Abram doesn’t complain; he knows that God will honor and bless him.
What does it take to get ahead these days? In studies of leadership, we observe contrasting styles and values. Pragmatic people do anything to succeed, even if it means stepping on others, unethical practices, or using people. They work their staff hard, but do not value them as persons or consider their needs. Other leaders deeply care about everyone in the organization, and promote harmony in the workplace. They care about more than just the “bottom-line”. How they “play the game” is more important than winning.
So Lot and Abram separate in order to resolve the developing tension. This may have been painful, but seemed necessary to maintain peace. Abram might have been pleased had Lot wanted to live with him like a son. It might have been better to work out their growing pains and stay together for protection in a hostile land, surrounded by enemies, and by encroaching moral depravity.
We’re all very familiar with the towns nearby Lot’s chosen location, Sodom and Gomorrah. It seems that Lot was attracted by these twin “sin cities”. Perhaps he craved the diversions and excitement offered by city life. He chose to live near…and later in Sodom. He may not have participated in their wickedness, but he evidently overlooked the pervasive depravity…sometimes we do as well. Lot’s choice might be compared to telling our family that we’ve decided to move to Las Vegas, or Amsterdam. I could see going to such places as a missionary, but not to raise a family. Do the practices of our degenerate world bother us, or have we become immune to immorality? Mark Twain wisely observed that, “man is the only animal that blushes…and needs to.” We often become callous to iniquity. We’ve lost the ability to be shocked and offended.