I love the stories of the Old Testament because they are so rich with adventure and ladened with principles of how to live the Christian life. An incident out of Abraham’s life will demonstrate this. In this narrative he is still called Abram, and he has just completed a successful military operation rescuing his nephew, Lot and all the other people that were taken captive. Abram is met on his return by the king of Sodom who says to him, "Give me the people and keep the goods for yourself" (Gen. 14:21). The king’s offer was disingenuous and self-serving.
Abram’s response is inspiring. “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, "I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or the thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, 'I made Abram rich’” (Gen. 14:22-23). The king’s offer didn’t throw Abram for a loop. He was prepared with an answer. The reason is that somewhere in obscurity Abram had a conversation with God that went something like this: “God, if you bless me or deliver me from my enemies, I promise to give you the credit.” This was a sacred conversation between God and Abram. He kept it to himself and never announced it to the world. He found a conviction that developed into a principle to guide him through life, and it made him strong. This is why he never wavered when offered this load of goods by this pompous, little king.
However, what I like about Abram even more is what follows. He articulated in no uncertain terms what he would do with the king’s offer, but he never presumed to decide what his three friends would do: “I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and the share that belongs to the men who went with me — to Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. Let them have their share." (Gen. 14:24)
What a magnanimous action this was. He doesn’t say, “Aner, Eshcol and Mambre are you going to accept nothing?”—thereby putting pressure on them. His convictions are his, and he allows others to be who they are. One of the most common temptations for all of us is our desire to control others. This comes so easy for all of us, and it is difficult to identify and learn to refuse this temptation, as Abram did. We are convinced if others would just be this way or if they would just do this or that, it would make our life more comfortable. It won’t! In fact, it never will, because even if they did what you want, it wouldn’t be enough.
Even in the church there is the temptation to control others. I want my brothers and sisters to pray this way or sing that way or act my way. What is so necessary is to do what Abram did, identify what “I” should do and then do it, but refuse to control others. Give them the freedom to be and do as they believe they should.
Unfortunately, some people try to control other people in search of their own happiness or emotional satisfaction. It is a selfish move. Contented and secure people don’t have to resort to controlling other people to be happy. They draw their contentment from God.