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)
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Vessels of Mercy

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Vessels of Mercy

Numbers 16:41-50

On the next day, however, the whole congregation of the Israelites rebelled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” And when the congregation had assembled against them, Moses and Aaron turned toward the tent of meeting; the cloud had covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, put fire on it from the altar and lay incense on it, and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them. For wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.” So Aaron took it as Moses had ordered, and ran into the middle of the assembly, where the plague had already begun among the people. He put on the incense, and made atonement for the people. He stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stopped. Those who died by the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the affair of Korah. When the plague was stopped, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting.

1 Peter 4: 7-11

The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.

What is the difference between Grace and Mercy? Do they both just mean getting away without paying a debt, or having a debt forgiven? I think grace and mercy have more similarities than differences and, semantically, perhaps mercy is a subset of grace. If grace was fruit in general, than perhaps mercy would be strawberries – the kind of fruit that everyone likes unless they have an allergic reaction to it. Some people just cannot stomach mercy themselves. Of course, it is not unusual for a person to have digestive problems with more than one type of fruit.

The point is this: if you cannot receive mercy yourself, it becomes very hard to give it. Take Moses for example. He was a murderer and a refugee who went from nobility to nomad in a single day. Yet God chose him, had mercy upon him, and brought him to a place of honor above that of Pharoah himself. Having received mercy himself, Moses was willing to stand in the gap for the Hebrew people on mult iple occaisions. Peter also received a similar kind of mercy when, after denying even knowing Jesus, he was welcomed back into the fold and commissioned to tell the world about the grace and mercy he had received from Jesus.

Jesus told a parable specifically about the importance of being filled with and then sharing mercy,

Matthew 18:23-35

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

and perhaps even more importantly, we are taught to pray, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”. Ironically, it seems that while we cannot give that which we have not received, we are filled with mercy ourselves only by giving it away. Mercy cannot be held. It can only flow through vessels.

How have you received mercy?

How have you shared that mercy?