Friday, September 30, 2016

Putting Others' Interests Before Our Own

“Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents.  But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.

So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is 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.’

Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)  So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.  Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.’” (Genesis 13:5-17 NIV)

If you are with a group of people in someone’s home and see a comfy chair, will you immediately seek to sit in it or allow someone else that honor?  If there is one cookie left, will you take it or wait to see if anyone else wants it?  Or if you see a parking spot in a nearly full lot and see another person heading for it, will you try to beat them to it?

I am guessing most of us, if we’re honest, will answer these questions in the affirmative of getting what we want rather than to defer to someone else, because that is our bent—to serve ourselves.  It takes intention and discipline to put others’ interests before our own.  That is why, as I heard happened recently, that a college student remains in his seat on a bus rather than giving it to an elderly man.  People tend to think about themselves and their needs first.

That is why this story of Abram (later called Abraham) and his nephew, Lot, got my attention.  In this ancient culture, the elders were respected and honored.  It was a given their needs and wants came first.  Thus, when their families had grown too much for the land to sustain them, Abram rightfully could have chosen both where he would settle and where Lot would reside.  Yet, he didn’t.  In fact, he gave his nephew first choice.  And, not surprisingly, Lot chose what he saw as the best land—flat and well watered.  Rather than say, “No, Uncle Abram, you choose first,” Lot did what comes naturally to all of us, he took advantage of the opportunity to satisfy his own desires.

We learn later that life did not turn out so well for Lot, but notice the Lord honored Abram.  He was far from a perfect man, but he is known as a man of faith.  Instead of grabbing what he could for himself, He trusted God to provide for his needs, and this story is a testimony to that.  

Today, consider the generosity of Abram when you see that comfy chair, someone in need of a parking spot or a seat, or that last cookie on the plate.  For the Lord is pleased when we sacrifice our needs in order to bless others. 

© Jim Musser 2016

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