Genesis 14:22 records one of my favorite OT passages: But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “With raised hand I have sworn an oath to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the strap of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.'”
Basically, Abram told the king he wouldn’t take so much as a shoelace from him.
This text records an exchange between a recently victorious Abram (he wasn’t known as Father Abraham yet) and a grateful king of Sodom who was offering our hero the spoils of war. With a mere 318 of his own men, Abram had just defeated the four kings who had routed the armies of Sodom, Gomorrah, and three other kingdoms. Abram pursued them, overcame them, and recovered all the goods they had seized from Sodom and Gomorrah.
Impressive feat, but why bother? Abram was clearly not a fan of the notoriously wicked kingdoms he had avenged. And he wasn’t even close to as powerful as they were.
The short answer is that Abram had a dog in that fight. His nephew Lot had been captured during the gruesome battle, and it would have been dishonorable, even inexcusable of Abram to do nothing about his kinfolk’s desperate situation.
Rewind: It would have been dishonorable, even inexcusable of Abram to do nothing about his kinfolk’s desperate situation.
Nevermind* that this nephew had been greedy and ungracious in an earlier property-rights issue. Nevermind that this nephew had made some unwise choices regarding his lifestyle and allegiances. Nevermind that Abram was outmanned and outnumbered.
Abram was Lot’s nearest kin, his only hope. His only hope. No one else was coming for him; there was no plan B. If Abram had stayed home that day–as any logical person would have because any logical person would know if the armies of five kings couldn’t beat the armies of four, 318 men sure couldn’t do it–we would likely have heard the last of Lot. But Abram was not a logical man, thank God! And I don’t mean that vainly. Really, thank God.
And God is not a logical God. If he were, I’d still be in captivity. Instead, when I got caught up in battles I had no business being anywhere near, he sent my next of kin to rescue me: Jesus. That’s right, what Abram did for Lot was a foreshadowing of what Jesus did for us.
It was also a foreshadowing of what we do/should be doing (pick one) for others, without regard for how they’ve treated us in the past and without the they’ve-made-their-bed-they-can-just-lie-in-it** posturing.
You see, I was once the dog God had in the fight, and now I have a dog or two in the fight myself (or ten or twenty or…goodness, who let the dogs out?!!) And I will overtake and overcome (see Luke 10:19) the opposition. Do I pray about it? No. I pray for it. “About it” usually means I’m going to kill time until the situation changes; “for it” means I’m ready to change the situation. Do I count the cost? No. The price has been paid. And what do I get out of the deal? Nothing. And everything.
Here’s the nothing: The church was created for the kingdom that is not of–as in having no relationship with–this world. But an alliance here, a partnership there, and before you can say pillar-o-salt the church has bound itself to the cursed kingdom of Sodom. When denominations make policy decisions based on what is politically expedient, when congregations choose mission fields based on worldly resources, when individuals base charitable contributions on a nation’s economic health, we lose. We walk away from the battlefield with 30 pieces of silver and just enough shoelace to hang ourselves.
But here’s the everything:”‘What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.’ In putting everything under them, God left nothing that is not subject to them” (Hebrews 2: 6-8).
Abram wasn’t so much refusing a reward as he was recognizing that the king of Sodom had nothing to offer him. And so it is with us. Let Satan keep his spoils. Let us keep our not-so-much-as-a-shoelace word.
* For those of you with hyper-correctness issues: I know this is technically not a word, but I like it this way. And I’m probably just a decade or so ahead of its etymological evolution.
**My mother loved to use that bed-making maxim on me when I was being difficult until one day I smarted back: “But you taught me how to make it!” Food for thought. And no insult to Mom, who was just doing her job.