January 30, 2014 by Chris French
Today we’re in Genesis 27-28.
The last time we saw Isaac he was a teenager, but in our reading today he’s a very old man. They grow up so fast! You can read about all the stuff in the middle in Genesis 23-26.
Isaac’s eyesight has failed to the point that he can’t tell his sons apart so when his wife overhears Isaac telling Esau that he would bless him after supper Rebekah hatches a plan. While Esau is out hunting and seasoning the meat he’s killed she and Jacob get some goats and cook them just like Isaac likes. They use the goat skins to drape over Jacob’s neck and arms so he’ll feel like Esau. Apparently Esau was one of those guys…anyhow nothing is wrong with Isaac’s hearing so when Jacob speaks he has his doubts that it is indeed Esau, but he smells like him and even feels like him so Isaac blesses Jacob thinking he was Esau. Apparently Jacob barely gets out of the tent before Esau comes in with his freshly prepped Iron Chef winning entrée only to find out that his brother deceived his dad and stole his blessing. As I’m sure you can imagine Esau is furious, probably lots of flailing of hairy arms going on. He determines that after Isaac dies he’ll kill Jacob, but again Rebekah gets wind of this and sends Jacob to get a wife from her family back in Haran, a safe distance from his newly homicidal brother. Remember after Terah died Abraham left his remaining brother in Haran and headed for Canaan. If you missed that post you can read about it here.
There are lots of interesting things going on in these two chapters, but I think the one of the more pertinent lessons for us comes from Esau. In Genesis 27.36 he says that this is the second time Jacob has taken advantage of him. Has anyone ever taken advantage of you? Maybe it wasn’t a life changing thing like it was for Esau, but did you react similarly? The anger, not the hairy flailing arms part. Jacob and Rebekah were very good at deception. They had all their bases covered so taking advantage of Esau was like taking candy from a very hairy baby. They got what they wanted. Isn’t that attractive? After the first time someone took advantage of your kindness, and after the anger wore off did it cross your mind that since they had gotten what they wanted by deceiving you that you could do the same to someone else?
Here are the facts. Jesus’ people shouldn’t be good at deception. We should be awful liars. We should feel guilty when we take advantage of people. We weren’t wired to live like that! In fact, we were wired to be on the receiving end of those kinds of people. Listen to what Jesus has to say about the matter in Matthew 5.38-42:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Do not resist the one who is evil. If someone slaps you your reaction should be to take it. If someone sues you for your shirt give him your coat too. An Israelite’s coat was an unalienable right. If I owed you money I could pawn my coat to you, but you didn’t get to keep it overnight. You had to return it to me (Exodus 22.26-28), then I would give it back to you in the morning. We would continue that cycle until I could pay off my bill. Jesus says if someone wants your shirt give him your coat too. Give up your unalienable right. If that right should be freely forfeited what can I hold back?
We aren’t Jacob in this story, we’re Esau. You will be taken advantage of. It’s going to happen. Don’t let that stop you from helping people. Don’t let that make you cynical. Don’t allow their actions to rewire the person Jesus meant for you to be. If you’re taken advantage of continue to be generous. You can’t control that person’s deception. Isaac did everything in his power to “be a good steward” of Esau’s blessing, but it wasn’t enough to see thru Jacob’s deception. They’re going to be good at taking advantage of you. Continue being open and generous.
How were you taken advantage of and how did it make you feel?
What did you do to make sure your heart didn’t close to other needs?
God will hold us accountable for our stewardship, but also our generosity (Matthew 25.14-30 and Luke 22.1-4). How do you walk that line?
I used to err on the side of stewardship. If someone needed help I would try to ferret out whether they were worthy of it or not. I finally realized what Isaac understood. People can be incredibly deceptive. I could talk to a person for an hour while they spun their story. I would give them some money or go out of my way to bless them only to find out later that it was all a hoax. Since I ran across the Matthew 5 passage I try to err on the side of generosity, I think it’s more in line with what Jesus would do. When everything is said and done my job isn’t to figure out whether you’re taking advantage of me or not. My job is to bless you because He has blessed me.
While we’re thinking about kindness I’ll go ahead and announce our Random Acts of Kindness Campaign. The cards are being designed and we’ll get those to you soon. There’s a website for the people you bless to tell what you did for them meant to them, kindness ideas and a page that explores why we want to do this. You can check it out at www.kindnessrising.com. It also has a link from our Young Adult website on the main Northport page under Gifts. Let’s bless others, not because they’re worthy (they aren’t and neither are we), but because He has blessed us so richly. Thanks to Mary Haney for the idea and for designing the cards and to Austin Dixon for designing the website. You guys are awesome!