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Winning the Battle but Losing the War

Genesis 31

Selfish Prayer

Overheard by the parents of a selfish child..
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep,
And if I die before I wake,
I pray the lord my toys to break,
So none of the other kids can play with em’.

Selfishness will catch up to you. I’ve found that one of the roots of many a sin is selfishness. We have a seed planted inside of us called the ‘self.’ And if that plant starts to outgrow the seed of the Holy Spirit, we will find ourselves by ourselves…with not much of what we really wanted in the first place.

The short version of the story in this chapter of Genesis is simple. Jacob works a bunch of years, under what seems an unfair slave-master with a conniving tongue. Laban is sneaky and selfish. Jacob goes through a snarled marriage to an unwanted bride, to 7 more years of labor for the bride he loved, to unfair wages and broken contracts. The image is that the whole time, Jacob bit his tongue among his wives and their daddy Laban. He must have had a lot of love for his wives (4 now) and family (children). I picture him as one of those respected blue collar workers who was full of down to earth values. He was ornery, but when it came to family, he tried his best.

Laban wants to keep this hard worker around, not only because of his work ethic, but also because the blessings of God are evident. Remember, at Bethel, Jacob was blessed by God with the same promises as Abraham. The blessing of God was evident in Jacob’s lifestyle and his success…and Laban knew it. However, it seemed that Laban loved the blessing more than the God it came from or the man who carried it.

In the end, Jacob leaves…with a bit of a ‘turn the tables’ on daddy-in-law trick, with his wives and children. Laban catches up to them as Jacob was well on his way to his homeland. Laban is found out for who he really is, and loses the battle to keep his family nearby. He loves his family, but his selfish attitude grew bigger and faster than his love for them. In the end, he goes home humbled with tears in his eyes.

Selfishness can destroy a person and their relationships to everyone around them. Greed is a bad thing. To be selfish, you need to covet other people and other things. Personal pride drives the heart to places it shouldn’t be. Deceit is necessary to hide selfish acts. Egotistical actions show the reality of intent. Laban was a man wrapped up in sin. Sin separates people from each other and God. Laban found himself in that very position when he had to walk away from his daughters and grandkids.

How do we advance the Kingdom best? We need to put God and his plans and his values and his principles first. That’s hard to do 100% of the time! But we must! If we don’t, then we can’t ‘Love God with all our heart…’ and we can’t ‘Love others as ourselves.’ We can’t be the leaders in Christ’s church if we don’t put God and others first. Remember Jesus saying something about ‘last shall be first.’ I think he also said something about his purpose was to serve. And serve he did…to his death.

What do we do when the Laban inside of us becomes too big for good spiritual health? What do we do when someone else is a Laban in our own life? We struggle forward. Life is sometime unfair. Things just shouldn’t happen. But we struggle forward. One of my favorite movies, titled “Meet the Robinsons,” has a phrase that’s spoken throughout. “Keep moving forward.” John Maxwell wrote a book called, “Falling Forward.” When we fall on our face or when someone is pushing us down, we need to keep struggling. Sometimes we need to stand and speak Truth. Sometimes we need to make a change for Truth. Sometimes we need to point out the sin in our own lives and others (gently…as the Bible says). But ‘do it’ we have to, or we set ourselves up for further messes. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over with the same results. Change is hard. But change can move us forward. Change for goodness sake.

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