Summary: If you want true success in life, don’t depend on your shrewd deals, and don’t depend on your spent schemes. Instead, depend on the Lord.
Ted Engstrom and Edward Dayton, in a Christian Leadership Letter some time ago, talked about a young man who was appointed president of a bank. Intimidated by his new responsibilities, he nervously sought the advice of his gray-haired predecessor: “Sir, what has been the secret of your success?”
“The secret, young man, is two words: right decisions!” replied the older man.
“But how do you make right decisions?”
“One word: experience.”
“But how do you get experience?”
The old man smiled. “Two words: wrong decisions.” (Ted W. Engstrom and Edward R. Dayton, editors, “Murphy’s Law,” Christian Leadership Letter, February, 1981, p. 1; www.PreachingToday.com)
The secret of our success is not usually what we think it is. Often, true success comes from some a very surprising place. Would you like to know where that place is? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 30, Genesis 30, where Jacob finds good success, but not in the place he expected.
Genesis 30:25-26 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.” (NIV)
That’s 14 years of labor.
Genesois 30:27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.” (NIV)
Laban wants Jacob to stay, because he knows Jacob is the reason for his success, so much so that Laban is willing to pay whatever Jacob asks.
Genesis 30:28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.” (NIV)
It’s the same thing Laban had said to Jacob 14 years earlier (Genesis 29:15). Then, Jacob asked for Rachel as his wages, but Laban tricked him and gave him Leah. Well, Jacob is not about to fall for that same trick again. So…
Genesis 30:29-30 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?” (NIV)
Jacob has 2 wives, 2 concubines and 12 children. Now, he needs to provide for them all. So Laban asks…
Genesis 30:31-33 “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.” (NIV)
Wealth in those days was measured in the number of domestic animals you owned, but Jacob is asking for the rarer kind, the speckled, spotted, or black sheep and goats. These are usually the rejects of the flock, but Jacob asks for these to prove his integrity with Laban. You see, they don’t trust each other, and this is a way to prevent any false accusations and insure that nobody is cheating.
Well, Laban can’t believe his ears! Jacob is offering to take the rejects of the flock, and there aren’t many of those. For practically nothing, Laban sees himself getting several more good years of quality labor from Jacob. It’s a deal he can’t refuse! So…
Genesis 30:34-36 Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks. (NIV)
Laban is being very shrewd here. He doesn’t want Jacob getting too rich off this deal; so Laban gives Jacob’s animals to his own sons to care for, and he separates them. That way Jacob can’t mate his spotted animals with Laban’s white animals and get more spotted and speckled animals than the few he normally would.
Oh, Laban is a very shrewd man; but as we shall see, Jacob is even more shrewd. You see, Jacob doesn’t make this deal because he is stupid. He has a few tricks up his sleeve, and he is counting on this shrewd deal to get rich at Laban’s expense.