“Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.” (Genesis 13:9)
What an unusual offer that Abraham gives to Lot. Let us consider the background of this for a moment: Abraham is the elder of the two, he is Lot’s uncle (and really the closest thing to a father that Lot has at the time), Abraham has taken Lot under his wing since the death of his father, Haran, and after the death of his grandfather (Abraham’s father), Terah. Abraham is the one whom God has called into this new land, Abraham is the one to whom the promise has been made. Lot has just sort of “tagged along” with Uncle Abraham, presumably thinking that this was his only real option. Abraham is clearly the one in charge. Yet Abraham tells Lot when their possessions outgrow the land and it becomes too small to support them both, “You choose which portion you would like and I will take what is leftover.”
Imagine a business executive telling a competitor this. Imagine a nation telling the government of another nation this about anything! This completely defies human nature. Our nature is to seek the best things for ourselves and let everybody else take what’s left over. What we see in Abraham’s offer here is very profound. Why did he make such a generous gesture? Was he merely trying to be polite, hoping that Lot would defer the prerogative of first choice back to his elder?
To presume that this was just the way that Abraham was and that he was naturally an extremely selfless and gracious man is to entirely miss the work of God in his life up to this point. Before he returned from Egypt, we saw Abraham fleeing Canaan under the shadow of famine and lying to the people of Egypt out of a paranoid fear for his life. He had worried that there would not be enough food to support him in this land before, you would think that he would now want to make absolutely certain that he secured the most fertile portions of the land for himself.
But Abraham learned a great deal about the way that God provides after his expulsion from Egypt. He learned to trust the Lord to provide for him, no matter what. He had seen how God can manipulate circumstances, how He can alter the course of events to bring about His will. If God could bring about a plague upon Pharaoh’s house in Egypt in order to deliver Sarah safely back to him, was God not able to provide for Abraham in any portion of the land of Canaan? The promises of the Lord to him were not idle words, Abraham knew now that whatsoever God had spoken, He was able to do. The Lord had promised to bring him into this land and to give it to his descendants for an everlasting possession, what possible difference would it make which portion of the land Lot chose to dwell in?
The way of this world is to exert whatever power and authority over others that we can in order to secure advantages for ourselves. The world teaches that we must fight for whatever we are going to get; and then we must grasp it tenaciously, lest we forfeit what we have gained. But such is not the way that our Lord would have us behave. He tells us that rather than ruling over others, we should serve others (Mark 10:43). He tells us that rather than hoarding things for ourselves, we should share what we have with others. He tells us that rather than seeking to enrich ourselves, we should be interested in providing to others.
Abraham left the decision up to Lot because he knew that God would provide to him exactly what he needed and exactly what God wanted him to have. No more, no less. When we entrust our own care to our Lord, we need not struggle, fight, or exert our own authority to get what we need. We, too, can let others seize the “best” portions for themselves because God will make sure that we receive precisely what He wants us to have.