The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.
In today’s culture, compromise is seen as weakness, isn’t it? The philosophy of our day is, “Never give an inch! Stand your ground! Don’t let them see you sweat! Never give up!” That is the world’s wisdom, but that is not God’s wisdom. Look at what the writer of Proverbs said in Proverbs 17:14: “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” A wise person does everything he can to walk away from a quarrel, to keep it from breaking out. Proverbs 19:11 adds, “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” To overlook somebody’s mistreatment of you is not weakness; it is strength.
Abraham understood that. When conflict arose between him and his nephew Lot because there was not enough land for all their livestock, he said, “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left” (Genesis 13:9). In other words, “Lot, you take whatever land you want, and I will take what remains.”
Abraham was the patriarch. He had the right to make the first choice of the land. Why was he willing to offer this compromise? First of all, he had a greater purpose in life. Every life is either self-focused or God-focused. As long as your number one aim in life is peace, prosperity, and pleasure, you are not God-focused. But Abraham had a bigger purpose than his own peace and prosperity. He wanted God’s promise fulfilled. He knew he was to be the father of a great nation, through whom the Messiah would ultimately come. And he knew that if he did not compromise with Lot, and the Canaanites won, the promise of God would be rendered null and void. So he said, “I am going to give up my own rights for a greater purpose.”
Second, Abraham had a greater faith than Lot did that God would take care of him. I am sure when Abraham made this offer to Lot, Lot probably laughed to himself and said, “Poor old senile Uncle Abraham. In his younger days, he would have never proposed a deal like this. I better take advantage while I can.” Abraham was not senile. He knew what he was doing. In the previous chapter, he had not trusted in God to take care of him, and it led to disaster. That experience changed Abraham’s perspective. He saw what happens when you try to watch out for number one and take care of yourself. He came to understand that if he obeyed God, God would take care of him. That is why he held his possessions very, very loosely, including the land.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Prodigal Nephew” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2009.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org