So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.” Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.
Whether it was love or duty, Abram had adopted his orphaned nephew, Lot. So, when God commanded Abram to leave his homeland and trust God for the journey, “he took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot”, and all they had, which can’t have been much because when the famine hit, they had to move on to Egypt. But when they returned, it simply says, “and Lot went with him” which Jewish scholars think is significant, for we have lost that responsibility of the phrase – ‘Abram took Lot’, and it now reads as though Lot simply tagged along. The storyteller reports Abram a very wealthy man, and Lot too, for they had too many sheep, and tents and people for the land to sustain it all.
Economically it was sensible to split up, and maybe the right time for Lot to branch out on his own, but isn’t it telling that when Lot is given the freedom to choose which lands to pastor, he chooses the more fertile and prosperous lands of the plain. Had success given him a hunger for more? We will certainly meet him later in a very modern city, where community cohesion, neighbourly care and even individual integrity have been sacrificed on the altar of greed and selfishness. To us a warning, that in our desire to get things better and bigger for our family, when do we lose the very thing – family – we are wanting to serve?
keep our heart filled with God’s love,
a love that really does desire the best for the other,
but in so doing, knows when to say ‘no’,
and when to walk alongside rather than to carry the person,
a love that never loses the hope of transformed lives.
Keep our mind clear, enlightened with the light of Christ
and protected from the lies of temptation,
the false economies of greed,
and the delusion that ends justify the means.
Keep our spirit fixed on the Holy Spirit,
that we too may never lose the unity that is the Godhead,
to remain at one with God and our brothers and sisters.
May we be one in spirit despite disagreements,
and inseparable even when we have to part.
The Rev’d Kevin Watson is the Moderator of the General Assembly of the URC and Moderator of the Yorkshire Synod.