If anyone builds on this foundation
using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw,
their work will be shown for what it is,
because the Day will bring it to light.
1 Cor. 3:12-13
We could work on one of our remodeling project rooms, play games and sleep in.
Unfortunately, for those of you who know what owning a general contracting business is like, it won't surprise you that by midday on the first day of our "stay-cation" he had received upward of 100 phone calls, not to mention the texts and emails he had responded to. I was absolutely fried. I had a terrible attitude. I was so mad. I had waited so long for this day and for our project to make some headway...I blew up at him.
Man, did the conviction of the Holy Spirit get to me after what I said. It's not a fun moment when you realize you've put your own agenda before loving your family, your hard-working husband and, by transference, God Himself.
When I read the story of Abram and Lot, I see myself caught in this moment—the moment of choice between choosing to survive—or to thrive. My agenda, or God's.
In this opening scene, we find that Abram and Lot, who is Abram's nephew, have been traveling together for quite some time, each with their herds and families and servants. But because their great amount of cattle and sheep took so much pasture land, they found that there just wasn't enough food to go around, and their servants had started arguing about who could have the pasture:
So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. Gen. 13:8-13
Lot had an agenda. So did Abram. They both wanted to be good businessmen and to take care of their families. There's nothing wrong with either of those goals. The difference was what each was willing to do to get their agenda.
I find that so often selfishness, or at least a self-focused way of thinking—what do I need, what does my family need, how can I get to my goals--trips me up in my desire to please God and love Him and others. It's not so much that I don't care about others, but I can get so focused on my own desires, goals, and needs that I place them above God's love and concern for other people who also have needs and desires.
Lot and Abram were both believers in God. They both tried to practice righteousness. They both tried to abstain from wickedness as far as they knew.
But Lot chose for himself what seemed to be the better plain. The one that promised riches. Promised popularity. Promised an easy life. But the promises were empty.
In fact, in 2 Peter the apostle Peter tells us that Lot was righteous, but that by living in Sodom in what he had thought would be a really fun lifestyle, he “was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)" 2 Peter 2:7-8.
Lot had built up a kingdom for himself that was made only of flammable materials: when the judgment day came it completely burnt up what he had built until only he himself was able to be saved. When the angels came, he was forced to choose to either save his own life or die staying with his empty wealth.
The Apostle Paul explains how this relates to our personal life as believers and how we serve the church Body together:
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Cor. 3:10-15
So if Lot chose to build with wood, hay or straw, with what did Abram build?
In chapter 14 we find that even before the angels come to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities faced a war. The four kings of the tribes around them joined together to attack them in the Valley of Siddim. The kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar lost and their people were taken as captives, including Lot and his family, and their possessions were looted.
Abram's immediate response was to rally his 318 men and go to fight the winning king to take back the people and possessions. He split his men at night and attacked and pursued them, bringing back all the people and the goods.
The next thing that happens I think is key to understanding Abram's different perspective on true wealth. Both the king of Sodom and Melchizedek, King of Salem went to meet Abram. By the law of conquest, every person and all property would belong to Abram and would be at his disposal to deal with however he pleased:
Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine;
He was the priest of God Most High. And He blessed him and said:
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
And [Abram] gave him a tithe of all.
Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.”
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.” Gen. 14:18-24
When Melchizedek blessed Abram, He reminded Abram that the God Abram served and worshipped was currently in possession of the universe and was absolutely capable of providing for Abram's needs without him resorting to taking away from the needs of others or by taking the riches of wickedness.
Though it doesn't outline a distinct conversation, either Melchizedek told Abram God's instructions about not taking the riches of Sodom or Abram simply had a strong heart conviction from God. Either way, Abram was not only willing to give God back His own tithe, but also to depend solely on the Lord's provision for his future needs.
This simple action of trust and obedience is what made a distinction between Abram and Lot:
Abram went back to living a hard life in the desert, waiting for the promises of God to be fulfilled in God's own way and time.
Lot went back to Sodom.
I know that I believe in Christ to be my savior, and I know that He has forgiven me and gives me grace to walk in righteousness and to grow in grace. But I want more than that. I want to build for His kingdom in such a way that there is something left after it all goes through the fire of the Judgment Day. I want there to be something left worth going through the challenges of this life. In my day to day decisions, I want there to be gold.
When my child comes down to “talk” at 11:30pm, am I willing to listen and free myself for however God would want to use that conversation?
When my husband calls me and asks to stay out late helping another person with the broken tree limbs hanging over their home, can I give my plans of comfort time to God, and take on the extra responsibilities of putting the kids to bed by myself?
When God asks me to give my spending money to care for strangers in need, would I be willing to give that up?
I'll be honest, both the little things and the big things are a daily challenge for me. It is much easier for me to abstain from doing evil things than it is to give Jeff the better cup of coffee. True story.
If we are to build using gold, silver and costly stones, it is going to cost us.
I would encourage you and myself, however, to put our trust in our God Most High, the Possessor of Heaven and Earth: He is the One who will abundantly and richly satisfy both our needs now and will give us a reward that can't be even imagined:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared
for those who love Him.”
1 Cor. 2:9
When we find a “costly stone” or precious metal, something that we can give up for Him, let's be excited at the building that we are helping to prepare for eternity—us.
Halley Faville lives with her husband and children in their mountain home in Oregon.