In this world we keep getting bombarded with how we deserve everything, how we need (yes, need, not want) everything, and how we are more worthy than the people around us. This leads to a reinforcement of the selfish mentality that is within most of us. We are inherently selfish, as exhibited by the behavior of small children. Only rarely do you come across a child who isn’t. More often than not, “Mine!” is a popular word in nurseries and day cares around the country. We don’t lose that as adults; we just learn to suppress when it goes against our best interests. The idea of sacrifice, even in traditional relationships like marriage and with our children, continues to lose ground. A brief glance of the news proves this.
God, however, takes the opposite view. He demands that we become last. He argues that we give up all. And He has made it clear that if you want to be first in heaven, you must be the servant of all. That runs completely counter to the messages we are bombarded with. And no better example of the potential impact of those opposing viewpoints is demonstrated when Abram and Lot split up:
Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD. – Genesis 13:8-13, ESV
Abram let Lot have first pick. In this case, Abram figured a relationship with Lot was more important than land resources and material wealth. It was so important to maintain a good relationship with his nephew that Abram said, “You pick what you want, and I’ll take what’s left.” Now Abram was the elder. He was the one who let Lot tag along. By rule and tradition, it should have been Abram who got first pick. But he yielded all of that. Having peace with his family, especially in a foreign land, was more important.
Lot seized the opportunity. He looked around and saw over by Sodom and Gomorrah. He liked what he saw. He figured he would do well there. The land was well-watered, meaning grazing for his flocks. Lot probably thought, “I love you, Uncle, but here’s my chance!” And so Lot camped out by the two cities we know later would cause so much misery in Lot’s life, from being captured in the midst of a war, to having to fight off the wicked men of the city, to having to flee his home with no notice and losing his wife in the process. In hindsight, it was a terrible choice.
But was it a choice whose consequences could only be seen in hindsight? Perhaps, but there’s more to our choices than what happens here. Let’s consider the motivation behind the choices. Abram made his choice to put some needed space between the families and give Lot first choice to preserve relationships. You could say he did what he did out of love. Lot, on the other hand, was motivated by profit and wealth. Who came out the better for it? Abram did. But even if Lot came out better in this life, consider God’s view on the situation. Which heart would God honor with treasures in heaven? And that’s why, even if it looks like the other person will win here on earth, it is better for us to yield and sacrifice. We’re not playing a game for earthly riches and glory. Rather, we’re living a life for heaven and eternity. That perspective should change everything.
Are you in the midst of a contentious relationship right now because neither party wants to give ground? If it’s not over or related to Biblical truth, then is it worth the conflict? For instance, if the reason you and your friend aren’t talking is because he wants you to get involved in something that would put your integrity and your Christian witness into question, that’s something to stay in conflict over. But if it’s over something that wouldn’t cause you to sin, consider the cost to continue to fight. A classic example is the squabbling that happens when someone passes away. We’ve heard and seen horror stories as folks fight over trinkets. Or maybe it’s because something happened in the past and they did something to hurt your feelings and you hold a grudge. Forgiving would mean backing down. It would mean you would have to let the other person off the hook and you deserve that apology he refuses to give! Is the apology really worth the fight? As you consider your relationships, if you find that you are in contention and there’s not a solid Biblical reason you’re standing on as to why, consider sacrificing the high ground in favor of reconciliation. We need to value our relationships. Certainly we need to value them over stuff.