Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Wealth and Honest Wages

Jacob, who fled his father's home after stealing his brother's blessing, has lived with his uncle, Laban, for quite a long time. He has lived and worked for the man in exchange for everything that he has, from his own herds and flocks all the way up to both of his wives and the slaves that came with them. 

It wasn't really the plan. In fact, it wasn't ever the plan. When Jacob left home, he was going to find himself a wife and then settle down somewhere and begin building his own family. When he came to Laban, he had his eyes set on one thing - Rachel - and agreed to live and serve seven years for her, a time that the Bible tells us seemed like no time at all because he loved her so deeply. And besides, if you're trying to escape your brother's potentially murderous revenge, seven years really isn't that much time. 

But seven years into it, Jacob receives not Rachel, but Leah - deceptively substituted in because Laban feared that marrying his younger daughter first would stick him with his older daughter forever. And let's be honest about Laban - he's a guy who only and always looks out for himself. He wasn't worried that Leah would never find a husband and would never have a family and would never be happy; he was concerned that he would have to take care of her forever, thus cutting into the profits he was making and damaging, perhaps, his social standing. 

So Jacob works another seven years for Rachel, and these, too, seem like no time at all because he still deeply loves her. This time, he gets Rachel, as promised, and all seems well. 

Then, Laban talks him into working another seven years as he builds his own house. Rather than gifting him a small herd to start his own life with, Laban puts him in charge of the large herds that the crafty man already owns and agrees to give him the cast-offs. Even though Jacob has married both of Laban's daughters, Laban has no interest in the establishment of Jacob's house; Jacob can have the deformed and defective. Laban wants to be rich. 

By the time Jacob has had enough and is preparing his family to leave - and they'll have to leave by literally running away without warning - Laban has changed the agreement he's made with Jacob time and time and time again. Never paying him what he agrees to pay him, never giving him the best of anything, always giving him the leftovers and the broken if he gives him anything at all, taking all that he can and giving the least he can get away with. 

And Jacob is a very wealthy man because of it

Let that sink in for a second. Jacob has spent decades in honest labor in a dishonest place. He has worked hard and with integrity for a master who has been deceptive and dishonest at every turn. He has served faithfully when he has not received his due. And somehow, he has this large, glorious house that is his. It's his. If Laban goes through Jacob's house and takes inventory of everything, he'll find nothing that was not at one point one of the man's dishonest wages. He'll find nothing that he didn't, in fact, give to Jacob by his own contract, even when he thought he was giving the man nothing at all. 

We're often told that if we want to succeed in this world, we have to do it the way the world does it. We're told that "that's just how things work," and we're expected to not only accept it, but to become just as skilled at it as anyone else. A lot of Christians would change a man's wages and not bat an eye because "that's the way the world works." It's not how we want it to work, but we've accepted that that's how it is. 

Jacob accepted it, too, but he never succumbed to it. He never traded in his own integrity on shifting sands. He submitted himself to Laban's rules, but he never played by them himself. And now, look at his house. Look at his wives and his sons, twelve of them. Look at his flocks and his herds. Look at the immense gifts he was able to send ahead to his brother, Esau, and how many camps he had to divide his household into for travel. 

All full of dishonest wages...honestly earned. 

Say that again - dishonest wages honestly earned. 

So no, you don't have to do it the world's way. You can do it God's way. And maybe it seems like you're getting taken, maybe it seems like you're being used. Maybe it seems like you're foolish, like your love or whatever has made you head-over-heels blind and this world has played you for a sap. Maybe it looks like that. 

But look around the see the house you're building. Look around and see what integrity gets you. It's really amazing.

More amazing still when the world sees your riches and starts to take inventory...only to find that there's nothing there it didn't contract to give you. Nothing there but the dishonest wages you honestly earned. Nothing there but something truly glorious.

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