Use It or Lose It

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Use It or Lose It

Genesis 31:1–21

Jacob Flees with Family and Flocks

Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s; he has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him as favorably as he did before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was, and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me as favorably as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength; yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not permit him to harm me. If he said, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore speckled; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father, and given them to me.

During the mating of the flock I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats that leaped upon the flock were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the goats that leap on the flock are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and return to the land of your birth.’ ” Then Rachel and Leah answered him, “Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has been using up the money given for us. All the property that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you.”

So Jacob arose, and set his children and his wives on camels; and he drove away all his livestock, all the property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. So he fled with all that he had; starting out he crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.

Matthew 7:7–11

Ask, Search, Knock1

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Do you remember what the 10th commandment given to the Hebrew people on Mt. Sinai was? Thou Shalt Not Covet… I find it ironic that it sat printed outside courthouses that handled petty lawsuits where people claimed injury in order to get something out of their neighbors. Undoubtedly, some of that injury was real, but I am doubtful that it is always justified.

This is the commandment we are most likely to forget (perhaps other than honoring our parents) because it cuts against the grain of our culture. We are taught to want, and we are trained to find our wants in what others around us have. Many of us were doomed the moment we started drinking the water. Some of us lasted until we had siblings born. But eventually, coveting is a trap that catches us all.

Jacob, for his many faults, learned not to covet. He began to look at what he already had with gratitude, instead of focusing on what he did not have, but wanted. So, instead of being upset with a deceitful father-in-law who had done him wrong, he instead focused on what he did have: God, and a host of experiences that showed God’s provision for him throughout his life. He knew he was not innocent himself, and could not expect a trouble-free life, but God had blessed him anyway. He still had received better than he deserved. God led him with blessing he continued to be willing to give up, for the sake of following God further.

That is the secret to understanding the teaching of Jesus on seeking God. God is not a wish granter in the way we sometimes wish He was. He leads us, and provides for us along the way. If we are not content with what we have today, it is almost a certainty that we will not be satisfied tomorrow – and even if we are, it will not last. We are called to give and receive freely, willingly, to and from both God and neighbor, and if we can do this, God will satisfy us with the fruit of our own life, and the bounty he prepares for us along the way.

On the other hand, if we focus so much on what we do not have and lose sight of what we do have, we may very well end up losing it all.

Use it or lose it.


  1. (Lk 11:9–13)

Chosen to Harvest

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Chosen to Harvest

Psalm 126

A Harvest of Joy

A Song of Ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,

we were like those who dream.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy;

then it was said among the nations,

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

The Lord has done great things for us,

and we rejoiced.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,

like the watercourses in the Negeb.

May those who sow in tears

reap with shouts of joy.

Those who go out weeping,

bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

carrying their sheaves.

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor had been in vain.

We are made to harvest. Sometimes we confuse harvest with prosperity though. We want to harvest wealth. We want blessing, honor, and power. We want respect. We want all this and more, and we want it yesterday.

I remember being unemployed and technically homeless several years ago. It frustrated me how my email inbox would fill up with get-rich-quick schemes every day, tempting me to part with the little money I had in a gamble for a quick return. Those businesses tapped into my basic desire to be a harvester and tried to exploit it. We all have that need. We want to work and have our work bring us gainful purpose.

Paul struggled leaving the churches he helped start because he was not able to harvest the fruit of his labor. He wanted to see people grow in their faith. Perhaps he wanted to test his teachings, to see if they stood up to the experience of others. More specifically, he wanted to be sure the people had not been pulled away by lies… specifically lies about things to do to get blessings more quickly.

The Psalmist reminds us that our fortunes come from God ultimately, and that what we reap is based upon what we sow. Yet he does not equate reaping blessing by sowing blessing . Instead he says, “Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.” Sadness does not guarantee success. But not sowing at all promises nothing. In a strange way, I think God just wants us to try, and to try our best. When we sow out of our poverty, God provides in ways that pick up where our strength ends. Often, there is even a little left over. In this way we truly do rejoice as we bring in our harvest, our sheaves, because we worked hard sowing, came up short but found more than we expected come harvest time.

What do you harvest?

What do you hope to harvest?