Summary: Because our God is generous we never have to worry about the things we need for this life of the next.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to make a list of things that we are thankful for. I want to make another list this morning – a list of things that you are afraid of. What would be on that list? Are you afraid of the dark? Sickness? Being alone? Rejection? Math tests? Public speaking? Spiders? Having an empty wallet? While we might not all be afraid of spiders everyone seems suffer from the fear of not having enough. Today’s text assures us, however, that we don’t have to have $uch fear$ because our God is generous.
If there was anyone who should have had a life filled with concerns, it should have been Abraham. You may be surprised to hear me say this because our impression of Abraham is that he was rich. Yes, he had lots of servants and sheep and so you may think, “What did he have to worry about?” Well for one thing, Abraham must have been concerned about where he was going to find enough food for all his animals. Abraham wasn’t raising sheep on Vancouver Island where everything is covered with green vegetation. He was in a place where the climate is drier than the Okanagan. In fact in the chapter before our text, the servants of Abraham and his nephew Lot were arguing over whose animals got to eat the little green grass they could find. Abraham didn’t want this bickering to continue because he knew that his heathen neighbors were watching. What kind of impression were they giving by acting like cut-throat businessmen who thought only of themselves and their bottom line?
Abraham knew he didn’t need to argue over land and water rights because before he had set out for Canaan God had promised to be with him and bless him. Surely, God wouldn’t go back on that promise now. And so Abraham invited his nephew Lot to choose first where he would take his flocks to live. Abraham promised that if Lot went to the right, then he would go to the left. And if Lot wanted to go left, Abraham would go right.
If there are only two pieces of pie left at the end of your Thanksgiving dinner this weekend, will you willingly offer the bigger piece to a bratty little brother? Most people wouldn’t. Most would claim the bigger and better piece for themselves. Abraham could have done the same. Instead he gave Lot first pick trusting that no matter what kind of grazing land he ended up with, his generous God would make it work. And it did work for Abraham even though Lot picked the better watered land around Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the end, Lot’s choice was a poor one. Sure, economically it made sense but spiritually it was all wrong. By choosing to live in Sodom, Lot subjected himself and his family to temptations and spiritual attitudes that eventually robbed Lot’s wife of her faith. Friends, the decisions we make today regarding where to live, what kind of hours to work, and what kind of friends we keep still have eternal consequences. Choose wisely! How do we do that? Jesus gave us the answer in our Gospel lesson. “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:29-33).
Lot did not heed Jesus’ words. He lived instead for the here and now and paid dearly for it. One way he paid for his poor choice was that the city where he lived was attacked and its inhabitants and their possessions dragged off into captivity. You would not have been surprised to hear Abraham say: “Poor Lot. He wanted to live down there with those heathen people. He’ll have to deal with the consequences.” But that wasn’t Abraham’s attitude when he heard the news. Instead Abraham took 318 trained servants from his household and pursued Lot’s captors hundreds of kilometers to the north. With a surprise attack, Abraham and his men routed the enemy and rescued Lot and everyone and everything else that had been carried away from Sodom.
On his return home, Abraham was met by the king of Salem, a city we now call Jerusalem. The king’s name was Melchizedek. He’s an interesting character in the Bible because in addition to being king he was described as a priest of the God most high. Here was someone besides Abraham who knew and believed in the true God. How did Melchizedek know about the true God? It could have been that God appeared to Melchizedek just as he had appeared to Abraham. Or it could have been that the truth about God had been handed down to Melchizedek from the descendants of Noah. Melchizedek brought out wine and bread to nourish Abraham and his men. He also blessed Abraham. In response Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of his possessions.