Monday, April 30, 2007

Bad ways to do a good thing.

Getting rid of mice; that's a good thing. Shooting up the house to get rid of them; that's a bad thing. But then, there are lots of bad ways to do good things. In fact, the Bible is full of examples from Moses killing an Egyptian to help free his people from slavery to Abraham trying to fulfil God's promise of a son by having a baby through his wife's servant.

There's a particularly haunting story about bad ways to do a good thing in our word for today from the Word of God. It's haunting because it exposes some of the most common mistakes we make in trying to get what we believe to be a good result. Just before Rebecca has her twin boys, Jacob and Esau, God promises her that, contrary to what usually happened in a Jewish family, "the older will serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23). Jacob, the second-born, will receive the blessing that she would expect Esau, the firstborn, to get.

But now father Isaac, who gives that blessing, is nearly blind and he appears to be dying. It looks as if Esau's going to get the blessing. In Genesis 26, beginning with verse 14, Rebecca schemes to pass off smooth-skinned Jacob as Esau the hairy outdoors man. The Bible says, "Rebecca took the best clothes of Esau ... and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands ... with the goatskins." She also gave Jacob his father's favourite meal to deliver. When Isaac asked, "Are you really my son Esau?" Jacob replied, "I am." And it worked! Jacob got the blessing. That's a good thing - the thing God promised. But it was done through manipulation and deception.

Here's the sobering question for you and me: do I sometimes manipulate people and situations to help a good thing happen? The first syllable of manipulation tells the whole ugly story - man. I can't wait for God to do it His way. Human manipulation aborts the perfect processes of God. And it almost always demands some sacrifice of the truth; making things sound or look different than they really are.

Isaac didn't die, it turns out, for many more years. Rebecca's’s scheme ripped her family apart and made one brother ready to kill the other. Her favourite son, Jacob, had to leave for twenty years, during which he was repeatedly deceived and manipulated. And Rebecca never sees her precious son again. There's such a high price when you use a bad way to do a good thing! You may get what you want, but you'll lose more than you could ever imagine. Just ask Rebecca.

Christian writer, Warren Wiersbe, has an awesome insight on all this. He says, "Faith is the absence of scheming." Here's the equation you can't afford to forget: a good thing + a bad way of getting it = a price too high to pay.


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