Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Isaac’s Success and Wealth -- Genesis 26:12-14

Genesis 26:12-14: Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him, and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy; for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.

The first thing we notice in this passage is that Isaac, remaining in the land of Gerar, went to work sowing the land that he had somehow obtained or rented. It is also possible that Isaac inherited the land from his father. You will remember that Abimelech had bestowed many gifts on Abraham in Genesis 20, and said to him, “Behold, my land is before you; settle wherever you please.” (Genesis 20:15). That land included Gerar.

Success always follows work. Fame and fortune may come without work, but success implies that someone tried and worked at something in order for him/her to ‘succeed’ at it. Sometimes, especially when we see others succeeding, we want that same kind of success but without any work. I can think of countless times when each of my children marveled at what they saw another child achieve – in music, skating, etc. But when we reviewed with them the cost in terms of work and practice and sacrificing of other things (like television, playing excessively with their friends, or just being lazy) that accompanied this success, they soon realized that they weren’t really ready to pay that price.

When we do work however God does bless. The text says in that same year that Isaac sowed the land, he reaped a hundredfold. That sounds like a bumper crop year to me. And it was so because God wanted to bless Isaac. Through the success of his sowing and the reaping accompanying it, God allowed Isaac to become richer and richer until he was very wealthy. He had lots of flocks, herds, and a large household of servants.

Isaac’s story is sufficient to stop all those who claim, “you can’t be a servant of God and be wealthy”. That is just not true. The issue is not our wealth. The issues are: who we believe is the giver of our wealth, our relationship to our wealth, our dependence on it, our ownership of it, and what we do with it. Genesis 26 clearly indicates that the ownership of land and livestock, other possessions, and even those who serve as employees or servants under your care (business or household), are not a sin. The Bible says, “the Lord blessed (Isaac)” in all these things. With that established, later throughout scripture we will be given further insights as to how we relate to wealth and what we do with it.

But for now let us simply be aware that God can and does bless people physically and financially and with possessions if He so chooses. And let us also be aware that when one has received such blessings, there will always be some that will envy them. The text says that because of all his possessions, “the Philistines envied him.” I am reminded a little bit of the envy that is sometimes expressed towards some hard-working immigrants to North America who do well because God has blessed their hard work. Such envy often comes from those that are nationals in the immigrants’ new country. And unfortunately, those that express such envy are those that have chosen not to work as hard or sacrifice as much so that their labor would be successful.

Finally, for the Christian, such envy may sometimes come from within the Body of believers and that is very hard to understand or accept. It hurts, especially when the person with the wealth is doing so much for the Kingdom with his/her finances and influence. Suffice it to say, there are no easy answers to this attitude save and except the indwelling of the Holy Spirit both in the believer with the wealth and in the believer without it.

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