Summary: The problem of acceptance cross-generationally in a church
1So Abram went up from Egypt, he and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the Negeb. 2Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. 3He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, 4to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the LORD. 5Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, 6so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, 7and there was strife between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land. 8Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. 9Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” 10Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the LORD had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. 11So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward; thus they separated from each other. 12Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. 13Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.
What do you do with a “sticky situation”?
The board chairman came to the pastor with good news and bad news. “What’s the good news?” asked the pastor.
“Well, the board has approved financial support for your mission trip to India.” “Great,” remarked the pastor; “what could be bad news after that?” “They only approved a one-way ticket.”
In case you haven’t noticed, life is a pretty messy road trip. Abram was following God, so he shouldn’t have complications – right? But there were complications. He had to lie his way out of a sticky situation in Egypt. (Actually he had his wife tell the lie). His wife was beautiful, and the powerful rulers liked beautiful women. Abram led them to believe she was his sister (a half-truth) and so Sarai went to live in the harem of an Egyptian ruler.
God spared Abram the consequences of his untruth with a miracle, but the damage went further than a little embarrassment over being caught in a lie. It seems Abram’s nephew, Lot, learned well by observing his uncle – he adopted a selfish way of looking at the world; he learned to choose what he wanted, over choosing what’s best – even if you have to lie to get it.
The story seems pretty simple – lots of blessings from God made both Abram and Lot rich. They had so much stuff (land, herds, and material possessions) and so many servants to handle the stuff, that they had a hard time keeping the peace in that crowded part of the desert. Abram’s servants fussed with Lot’s servants over watering rights and animal brands; it was an unbearable family squabble.
Abram used his typical logic to avoid making hard choices in sticky situations. He made a typical Abram choice – separate! “Lot, you choose…go this way, and I’ll go that way; or if you want – the other way around.” Of course Lot chose what he wanted – and it was a ticking time bomb in Sodom that he chose. Eventually the wickedness of that place brought the house down on top of itself. Lot and his family barely escaped with their pinfeathers burning; and they carried away precious little else of what had seemed a really great place to retire. Talk about a housing industry collapse!
Abram – sticky situations
Lot – selfish choices
And so what do we make of this account?
There are at least a few obvious lessons to be learned here from the bad choices made by both Abram and Lot. Lot lost respect for Abram during the Egypt deception over his wife, Sarai. There’s a parallel today with young people who have little respect for the church because they see contradictions between what Christians say, and how they live.
The strife between Abram and Lot certainly alienated the pagan Canaanites. There is no telling how many non-believers have been lost for eternity because church folks cannot get along. To anyone who truly loves the LORD and his church -- it is terribly embarrassing to hear, Oh, yeah -- you're from that church that's always fighting. Worship there? I don’t think so; I'd rather have a root canal! The poor witness of bad ripples lasts a long, long time!