Summary: The Life of Abraham, Part 2 of 10.
SHORT-TERM GAIN, LONG-TERM PAIN (GEN 13:5-14)
Once upon a time, there was a man who lived with his wife, two small children, and his elderly parents in a tiny hut. He tried to be patient and gracious, but the noise and crowded conditions wore him down.
In desperation, he consulted the village wise man. “Do you have a rooster?” asked the wise man. “Yes,” he replied. “Keep the rooster in the hut with your family, and come and see me again next week.” The next week, the man returned and told the wise elder that the living conditions were worse than ever, with the rooster crowing and making a mess of the hut. “Do you have a cow?” asked the wise elder. The man nodded fearfully. “Take your cow into the hut as well, and come see me in a week.” Over the next several weeks, the man - on the advice of the wise elder -- made room for a goat, two dogs, and his brother’s children.
Finally, he could take it no more, and in a fit of anger, kicked out all his guests, leaving only his wife, his children, and his parents. The home suddenly became spacious and quiet, and everyone lived happily ever after. (Source: The Hope Health letter, Leadership, Winter 96)
Along with his son Abraham and daughter-in-law Sarai (Gen 11:31), Terah brought his grandson Lot with him to Haran, where the family accumulated possessions and acquired servants (Gen 12:5). Lot was the nephew of Abram; his deceased father Haran was Abram’s brother (Gen 11:30-32). After the death of Terah in Haran, God called Abram to resume the journey to Canaan. An embarrassing detour to Egypt when a famine struck Canaan resulted in even more gifts than they had ever had before, with courtesy from Pharaoh, who had eyes on Sarai (Gen 12:16, 13:2). Abram now had much wealth in livestock, gold and silver (Gen 13:2), but before long, a misunderstanding and a conflict arose between Abram and Lot’s herdsmen (Gen 13:7).
Abram was the winner in the dispute when he allowed Lot to pick first the land of his choice. Abram trusted God as his guide, while Lot trusted his feelings to guide him. Lot made a lousy choice because his criteria were flawed and the consequences were tragic.
The secret of joy is the contentment that Christ gives in any and every situation - whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Paul says, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13).
So, how does a contented man behave? What guides him? Why is contentment a safeguard against prosperity, temptation, and strife? How were Abram’s values superior to Lot’s?
SHUN QUARRELSOME PRACTICES
5Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7And quarreling arose between Abram’s herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. 8So Abram said to Lot, "Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. 9Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left." (Gen 13:5-9)
The first mark of a contented man is a disinterest in quarreling. For Abram, quarreling with anyone, especially with someone who meant a lot to him, instead of resolving a problem and salvaging a relationship was unacceptable.
My father had an elder brother, a younger brother and a younger sister, who was the youngest in the family. My quiet elder uncle married a fierce wife, the type that talks loudly, terrorizes neighbors, and unsettles people. She demands the last word in a conversation, must be one up on others, and makes sure everyone knows who is boss.
Troubles in the family began when my youngest aunt made her wedding plans. My youngest aunt was the favorite child at home because she was the youngest and the only girl in the family. For unknown reasons, her plans did not include a wedding banquet, her eldest brother’s family or anyone in the family. The wedding couple was young, poor, carefree, independent, and idealistic. My eldest aunt-in-law threw a fit, but my grandmother, the family matriarch, sided with her daughter.
The youngest sister’s family and the eldest brother’s family did not get along nor did they make up. My grandmother’s death was the last nail in the coffin for the two families. The daughter came dutifully to attend her mother’s funeral, but commotion broke out at the funeral parlor. My eldest aunt-in-law, now the new matriarch of the family, forbade the youngest daughter and her family from attending the funeral, burning incense, or paying respects.