Have you ever been in the situation where someone you know got into a mess and then asked you for help? Did you start to think, “You got yourself into this situation, now get yourself out!” It’s easy to think this way. It’s really easy to look at what we have and say, “I’ve worked hard to be where I am. Why should I give up what I worked so hard to get?” There’s a huge fallacy here that all Christians should be aware of. That fallacy is that we worked hard to get anything that we have. Sure, we may have worked hard. Sure, we may have used the most of our abilities and intelligence. The problem is there are plenty of people who are just as talented who worked just as hard and didn’t get anywhere near the same results. The Bible reminds us over and over again that everything good we have comes from God. It’s not ours. We can’t treat any of it like it belongs to us. Rather, we are to be stewards of everything we’ve received. Whenever we start thinking “This is mine,” we’ve lost sight of that. And when we lost sight of that, we’re likely not in a situation where we’re willing to help our brother like we should.
Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram. When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people. – Genesis 14:13-16, ESV
There was a war and Lot and his family was caught in the crossfire. But one person got away and went immediately to Abram’s friends, who passed on the news to Abram. Once Abram found out what happened, he gathered up his folks and went after the ones who had taken his nephew. There are a lot of things Abram could have said here. The first thing most of us might say is, “Well, Lot knew the deal when he moved out there. Those cities were bad and he just brought trouble upon himself.” That would be easy to do. But it’s not what Abram did. Abram could have said, “There are four kings with their armies and they’ve already beaten five kings and their armies. I’ve got a wife to think about. I’ve got a prosperous business and a lot of folks depend on me. I can’t go.” That’s not what Abram did, either. Or Abram could have looked at the timeline and said, “Wow, those guys are already gone from the scene. If I take my guys, by the time we catch up we’ll be exhausted and have to go into a fight like that. We don’t stand a chance!” Abram didn’t choose that possibility (nor, much later in history, did a US general named Patton).
Instead, Abram gathered up his guys, charged after the captors, and engaged them in a night battle. He won that battle and then continued the chase to ensure the job was done. There were a lot of excuses Abram could have given and could have used, but he instead chose to help his nephew. Yes, he put himself at risk. Yes, it could have all gone wrong. Yes, he could have been captured himself. Yes, he could have been killed. Yes, he could have been permanently crippled and left a physical shell of the man he was. I’m sure all of those thoughts probably ran through Abram’s head at some point as he went to engage his enemy. However, he didn’t let any of that hold him back from coming to the rescue of Lot. He was ready to help his brother because it was the right thing to do.
Now I need to add the proviso here that Abram provided real help. Sometimes giving someone what they ask for doesn’t help them at all. For instance, when you give an alcoholic a few bucks so they can go fill the fridge with food, you probably aren’t helping, but hurting. When that person goes to buy the groceries, even with the best of intentions, likely they will see the alcohol and you know where the money will go instead. So while we must be ready to help our brother, we also need to make sure our actions are actually helpful. A better scenario would be to buy the groceries and deliver them or simply to take food over there for each meal or have them over to eat with you. Abram’s actions were helpful. They directly confronted the issue and took care of it. Lot was freed and those kings weren’t going to come around and mess with him again. We’ll see later on where Sarai will decide to “help” God and will bring about a situation (with Abram’s consent) that has devastating consequences to the present day. So while we must be ready to help our brother, we must be ready to do so in a way that actually brings aid, not just appeases our guilt.
Is there someone you know around you who needs help? Is there a family member or friend who could use an assist? Even if that person is too proud to ask, so long as our actions are helpful and would be used by the person, we should consider helping. Keep in mind that Lot didn’t ask for Abram’s help. He couldn’t. He was in a mess and he couldn’t get out of it. Also recall that Lot’s problem was self-imposed. He chose to hang out by Sodom and Gomorrah and when trouble brewed, he didn’t get out of there. However, that didn’t stop Abram from helping. Even if the folks you are thinking about contributed in large part to their situation, is there a way you can help (that does help)? Is there something you need to do to be in a position to help others with immediate needs? As Christians we should be in a position to help the folks around us. After all, we all have a major problem we can’t do anything about. It’s a problem of our own causing. It’s known as sin and it’s all our fault. Yet that didn’t stop God Himself from coming down from Heaven and heading to the Cross to fix the mess we made. If that’s His example, it must be ours, too.