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The Book of Genesis details the life of a greedy, proud individual named Laban. Christians can all learn a noble lesson from reading about his life.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, needed a wife. This is the family God Himself had chosen to be the forefathers of the One who would come to bless the whole earth:

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:2–3. See also Galatians 3:8 and Acts 3:25). 1

In light of this promise to Isaac’s father, Jacob’s parents were adamant that Jacob should not seek a wife among the Canaanites, a group of people that had been cursed by Noah: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers” (Genesis 9:25). So, they insisted that Jacob restrict his search for a spouse within the family. Rebecca, Abraham’s wife, had a brother named Laban. Seek a wife there, he was told (Genesis 28:15).

He obeyed and set off to a place called Paddan-aram, where Laban lived. Jacob found Rachel at a well, where she had come to water her father’s flock of sheep. (Genesis 29:1-13). The courting of Rachel went well at first. Jacob loved her but was not too keen on her sister, Leah. Laban promised Jacob that he could have Rachel if he worked for him seven years. Jacob agreed. So, after seven years of toil, Jacob was more than ready to receive his beloved Rachel into the marriage bed on their wedding night. However, in the darkness, Laban the Abominable slipped in his first-born daughter. Jacob and Leah slept together and thus became man and wife.

Jacob was a bit peeved.

However, Laban the Abominable had an answer. If Jacob worked for him seven more years, he could have Rachel after all. Laban said, “We just don’t marry of the younger daughters before the older ones around here. Sorry about that. I knew you’d understand.” Or words to that effect.

Jacob’s stay with the Laban the Abominable was turning into a stay at the Hotel California. He had checked in, but he might not ever be able to check out. Nevertheless, the Lord prospered Jacob. He eventually had twelve sons and an immense herd of sheep. Then, this happened: “Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, ‘Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.’ And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the LORD said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you’” (Genesis 31:1–3).

So, without notifying Laban, Jacob and his family fled, herds and all.

Laban was enraged. Not only had Jacob left without saying good-bye, his household idols were missing. He assumed that someone in Jacob’s household had stolen them. So, he set out in pursuit of Jacob and his family. Laban was right. His own daughter had taken them. But that’s another subject for another time.

When Laban caught up with them, he launched into an angry diatribe. Jacob defended himself and told Laban, “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night” (Genesis 31:42).

Apparently, this meant nothing whatsoever to Laban, because he offered this stunning response: “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine” (Genesis 31:43a).

Translation: “God has prospered you and rebuked me, but everything that you own is actually mine.”

What would move a man to make this claim?

Pride. One of the great scourges of the earth. “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5). Laban could not accept that Jacob had been so successful.

We all are subject to this abomination. Pride exists in our governments, our businesses, and yes, in our churches and religious organizations. I expect this in the world, but our ministries should not be exemplars of that sin. How do we model it? When we boast about our ministries. We have led this many to Christ. We have added this many members. We have fed this many people. We have helped these ministries, ones that protect the unborn, help dig wells in Africa, and so on. Good things, but remember Jesus’ admonition? “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Matthew 6:2–4).

I exhort my Christian brothers and sisters and their ministries, to cease boasting. Let us not follow the abominable example of Laban and lose our reward. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31).

 

1All scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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