Genesis 13, Nehemiah 2, Psalm 12

Read Genesis 13, Nehemiah 2, and Proverbs 1:20-33.

This devotional is about Genesis 13.

Abram and Lot must have had some kind of close personal relationship. Genesis 11:31 told us that Lot was Abram’s nephew. The fact that Lot went with Abram (12:4) when Abram left Ur suggests a close, personal friendship between Abram and Lot, one where Abram was most likely a mentor that Lot looked up to.

God had promised, in Genesis 12:3, that he would bless anyone who blessed Abram. Lot’s personal association with Abram sure seems to have brought God’s blessing to Lot’s family. As we read today in Genesis 13:6, Lot and Abram became so wealthy that “they were not able to stay together.” So, they separated themselves geographically and Abram graciously gave Lot the power to choose which land each of them would inhabit (vv. 8-9).

Verse 10 told us that Lot made his decision based on what would benefit him most economically. As a rancher, a “well watered” plain “like the garden of the Lord” would provide the best environment for Lot’s flocks and herds to thrive, contributing to Lot’s bottom line. So Abram and Lot parted for economic reasons and Lot chose his next home for economic reasons.

Verse 12 told us that “Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.” The next verse told us that Sodom was inhabited by wicked men. When I was growing up, messages I heard on this text suggested (maybe even stated directly) that Lot “pitched his tents near Sodom” because he was curious about the wicked lifestyle of the people who lived there. I don’t think that is correct, based on 2 Peter 2:7-8. I think Lot lived near the cities, especially Sodom, because it gave him a great market for his livestock. So, again, he chose what was best for himself and his family’s prosperity despite the spiritual threats Sodom would pose to his family.

I believe the prosperity gospel is wrong, a heretical distortion of the gospel.

But I don’t believe that prosperity is wrong; in fact, I believe that we should prosper—unless God chooses not to allow us to prosper–because our faith causes us to work hard and act prudently with money. So, I’m pro-economic growth for all of us within the sovereign and the moral will of God.

But, if prosperity drives all of our decisions, we will make bad moral choices (see 1 Timothy 6:10). This happened to Lot, as we’ll see.

How about you and me?

  • Do we choose to take a job with a better salary without considering how it might affect our families?
  • What about the choices we make when it comes to spending money? Are your kids enrolled where they are in high school or college because you can save money that way? Did the spiritual and moral costs of that decision factor into your choice

Money is important; we all need it to live and I pray for the prosperity of our church members within the will of God. But don’t let money drive you to make disastrous moral decisions.

Lot would have been so much better off if he had offered to reduce his flocks and herds so that he could stay with Abram. He probably wouldn’t have been better off economically–at least not at first–but he would have retained the moral example and instructions from Abram which would have benefited him in every area of his life. Be wise; don’t allow every big decision you make to be decided only to the money needed.

1 Samuel 24, Ezekiel 34, Proverbs 21:1-14

Read 1 Samuel 24, Ezekiel 34, and Proverbs 21:1-14.

This devotional is about Proverbs 21:1-14.

“Get Rich Quick” schemes have a well-deserved bad reputation. If anyone gets rich from them, it is usually the one selling the scheme, not the one buying it or investing in it. In Proverbs 21:5, we read in these words in the last half of the verse, “…as surely as haste leads to poverty.” “Haste” can refer to the desire to get rich “quickly,” but the verse suggests that being in a hurry, generally, is poverty-inducing. When we are in too big of a hurry, we look for shortcuts, we may be tempted to be dishonest, we take foolish risks, we look for big scores through gambling instead of investing for the long-term.

That leads us to the first half of the verse, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit….” “Diligence” is a word that refers to deliberate, careful, conscious effort. It is a word that goes well with the word in the first part of the verse, “The plans” Diligent people make plans. They don’t take their life savings and give them to some guy who calls up offering to invest for them. They don’t make hasty decisions. Consequently, their plans “lead to profit.”

This verse, then, contrasts two diverging paths. The path that looks like a shortcut to wealth leads inevitably to “poverty” while the conscious, careful, deliberate strategy created by the diligent and followed step-by-step leads to profit. These verses are proverbs, of course, so they are not iron-clad promises but rather broad descriptions of what usually happens. Sometimes people put everything on one spin of the roulette table and win big. But, most of the time, people who try to strike it rich fast lose everything. Likewise, sometimes people plan carefully, save diligently, invest wisely and still lose everything. It happens, but not usually.

Is there any area in your life where you are seeking a shortcut to success, a fast lane to easy street? Do you make plans and carry them out or are you in too big a hurry making a living that you never have time to design a life? Consider the warning and the encouragement in this proverb.

Also, remember the tortoise and the hare. You may feel like your plans are taking too long to develop and that you’re way behind. Don’t get hasty. Trust the process of diligence; it usually pays off in the end.

1 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 15, Ephesians 2

Read 1 Samuel 2, Ezekiel 15, and Ephesians 2.

This devotional is about 1 Samuel 2.

There is such a contrast in this chapter between the godly praise of Hannah in verses 1-10 and the evil acts of Eli’s sons in verses 12-26. Hannah not only gave praise and glory to God in her words, but she described who the Lord would honor and who he would humble. She also prophesied in verse 10 when she said, “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” At that point, there was no king in Israel, nor was any king on the horizon. Late in Samuel’s life, when his mother had almost certainly been dead for some time, Samuel, her son, would anoint the first and the second king of Israel.

Meanwhile, Eli and his sons were acting dishonorably before the Lord and, instead of giving prophesies, they were being prophesied against (vv. 27-36). The author of 1 Samuel described Eli’s sons in a general way in verse 12. Then in verses 13-17 he gave specific instances of their sin of having “no regard for the Lord” (v. 12). The manifestation of their ungodly attitude toward the Lord was first of all their treatment of his offerings. When the people brought sacrifices to the Lord, they were acts of worship to him, of course. But God had also decreed that some sacrifices were to also provide food for the priests (see Lev 6:25-26 for one example). The problem was not that Eli’s sons ate the sacrificial meat; the problem was that they cared nothing for the Lord, the worshipper, or the Law’s instructions about the sacrifices. All they cared about was getting the best portion of meat from the sacrifice and the ability to cook it as they wanted. 

Eli’s sons treated the meat of the sacrifices as property they could take for their own appetites. They also viewed the women who served in tabernacle as property they could take for their sexual appetites (vv. 22b). Eli’s sons, then, used their privileged position as priests to serve themselves with no regard for how the Lord was to be served. Eli did confront his sons about their sins and did urge them to stop (vv. 23-26), but he would not use the position and power the Lord gave them to make them stop. He had every right—responsibility even—to remove them as priests for their wicked acts, but he cared more about honoring them than he did about honoring the Lord (v. 29). 

All three of these men, then, were sinning in their capacity as leaders. His sons abused the privilege of leadership to bring them pleasure. Eli refused to use the power he had as a leader for the Lord’s glory. Instead, he used it to protect his sons, even though he was disgusted by their sins.

The problem with power is that it can seduce those who have it into using for their own enrichment or for their own protection rather than for doing what is good. The boss who takes credit for the work of his team, the pastor who steals from the church’s treasury or preys on women who come to him for spiritual help, the father or mother takes out their own frustrations on their children, the politician who uses public office to enrich himself or herself—these are all ways in which people use a position for selfish gratification instead of to serve the Lord by using that power for his glory.

Is there any area in your life where your actions as a leader benefit you but displease the Lord?

Samuel was brought to serve in the tabernacle by his mother, but God brought him there to replace the house of Eli with godly leadership. Samuel will show us how a godly leader operates and, of course, the sacrifice of Christ a little over a thousand years after this will show us how God wants us to use our leadership to serve not to be served. Think about where God has called you to lead; now, is your leadership there glorifying to him or gratifying to you?

Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 22, 2 Corinthians 6

Read Deuteronomy 30, Jeremiah 22, 2 Corinthians 6.

This devotional is about about Jeremiah 22.

How much is enough?

That’s a relatively easy question to answer when you are eating a meal. Eat enough and you will feel full. Push past that point, and your body will make you vomit.

It is not an easy question to answer when you are thinking about wealth and possessions. No matter how much money you make, you could spend it all. There is always a better car, a more beautiful home, a boat, a jet, a better jet, an island, an NFL team, or something more or better than what you currently have.

But isn’t there a point when you have enough? Isn’t there some point of diminishing returns?

That’s one of the questions Jeremiah asks here in Jeremiah 22. As he addressed the sins of Judah’s king, Shallum (aka Jehoahaz), he asked, “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?” (v. 15a-b). In other words, he was a greedy man who was driven to acquire a bigger and nicer home. He was even willing to finance his possessions with “oppression and extortion” (v. 17d). And, according to verses 13 he made “his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.”

I can’t read those words without thinking about some of the wealthiest people in our world. Jeff Bezos built an incredible business in Amazon.com and was rewarded for it. As of 2020, Bezos was worth $133 billion. I’m a capitalist and the Bible teaches capitalism, so I don’t begrudge Bezos for what he is worth. His wealth is due to growth in the price of Amazon’s stock, but if Amazon had failed as a company, his stock would be worthless.

But there is a vast disparity in how Amazon pays its employees The CEO of Amazon earns $212 million per year for doing his job. Meanwhile, the median income of Amazon’s workers was $32,855. That is quite a difference between what the best paid employee of Amazon makes and what the workers in the middle of their wage scale make.

Again, I’m a capitalist and I don’t think salaries should be regulated. There is nobody in Washington D.C. who can decide what your work is worth better than the market can.

But God cares about the poor. It matters to him if the wealthy use the labor of others to enrich themselves without also rewarding the labor of those who work for the wealthy. God also calls out the futility of seeking more money and more stuff. He compared king Shallum to his father, a godly man, Josiah, who also ruled over Judah. I quoted the first part of verse 15 earlier but look at the whole verse: “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.” In other words, Josiah was a good and fair king. He was content with having enough and his life was blessed. Shallum would be held accountable by God for his endless greed and for exploiting others to try to satisfy that greed.

While none of us is a king, or a billionaire, the principle in this passage is still worthy of our consideration. If you own a business, do you pay market wages to your employees when you could pay better because your company is doing well?

If you don’t own a business, are you focused on “more and more cedar” (v. 15b) as a metric for how successful your life is? Have you noticed yet that no matter how much you earn or how much stuff you acquire, it doesn’t translate into greater and greater happiness?

Materialism and greed are so pervasive in our culture that we sometimes don’t notice how much they drive what we think about and what we do. God calls us to contentment and generosity. Are you content with what you have? Are you generous with others, using what you have to provide for and enrich their lives?