Thursday, January 14, 2010

Esau Wants To Leave Jacob Some of His Men -- Genesis 33:15

And Esau said, “Please let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.”

Agreeing to Jacob’s request of not be required to travel as quickly as Esau had planned but rather to travel at a pace Jacob’s children and flocks could handle, Esau now offers to help his brother by leaving some of his men to provide whatever assistance Jacob’s company may need in their travels to Seir. Clearly Esau had noticed that Jacob had some personal servants and people to help with the herds, but insufficient human resources to make the trip as smooth and easy as possible. Jacob certainly was not traveling in the style of Esau and the latter thought his brother would want to do just that, if he could afford it.

But Jacob, as usual, has other ideas. This time he responds by rhetorically asking, “What need is there?” Not wanting to upset Esau by not accepting his kind offer, Jacob adds, “Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” That is, “don’t let my refusal of your generous offer take result in the absence of favor from you.”

One could easily title any commentary on this verse as The Art of Saying No, Thank You. What do we do when someone is offering us something we do not need or think it wise for us to have? Well, Jacob seems to have the right idea. First, he tries to share with the potential giver that there is no need of it. It is true that Jacob had enough assistance to complete his journey. Anyone else coming along would only be for the sake of luxury. “I have no need; God has provided enough,” is a phrase we do not hear, or perhaps say, too often these days. It is only when we come to compare our blessings with the needs of so many others that we might consider it. The secret for the Christian is to be content with what God has blessed him with; anything else is gravy or a bonus. In many times, we have a responsibility to direct the gravy or the bonus towards others with greater needs. If God wants us to have that bonus or gravy, He will see to it. Otherwise, we should live on the “I have enough” principle.

Having shared his feelings about having sufficient and there being no need for more, Jacob then turns his attention to the feelings of the giver, ensuring that he is not offended. The Bible does not record how Esau felt when he could be of no assistance to his brother. This is indeed a hard part of life – having an offer made in good will, rejected. Many of us have experienced that. The only bit of advice I can offer is that we all need to remember that while we have the right, and sometime the obligation, to offer whatever we can to others, they too have the right to refuse it for their own reasons. We need to respect that. Perhaps the only consolation, afterwards, is to know that we did our best to show our expression of love and caring, even though it was not accepted. Then, we need to actually show true love and caring by continuing to show ‘favor’ on the person. May God make it so in our lives.

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