Today's Lectionary Text
Genesis 30:25-36After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me off so that I can go to my own place and my own country. Give me my wives and children whom I’ve worked for, and I will go. You know the work I’ve done for you.”
Laban said to him, “Do me this favor. I’ve discovered by a divine sign that the Lord has blessed me because of you, so name your price and I will pay it.”
Jacob said to him, “You know how I’ve worked for you, and how well your livestock have done with me. While in my care, what little you had has multiplied a great deal. The Lord blessed you wherever I took your livestock. Now, when will I be able to work for my own household too?”
Laban said, “What will I pay you?”
Jacob said, “Don’t pay me anything. If you will do this for me, I will take care of your flock again, and keep a portion. I will go through the entire flock today, taking out all of the speckled and spotted sheep, all of the black male lambs, and all of the spotted and speckled female goats. That will be my price. I will be completely honest with you: when you come to check on our agreement, every female goat with me that isn’t speckled or spotted and every male lamb with me that isn’t black will be considered stolen.”
Laban said, “All right; let’s do it.” However, on that very day Laban took out the striped and spotted male goats and all of the speckled and spotted female goats—any with some white in it—and all of the black male lambs, and gave them to his sons. He put a three-day trip between himself and Jacob, while Jacob was watching the rest of Laban’s flock.
One of the most-watched TV shows in the 1980s was “Dallas.” It was the fictional story of the Ewing family, a wealthy brood that made a lot of money ranching, but even more money in the oil industry. The central storyline throughout the show’s 14 seasons was the rivalry between two of three brothers — Bobby and JR.
JR was the character you loved to hate, played so well by actor Larry Hagman. JR wasn’t ambitious. He was greedy and mean, and he would do whatever it took to grab control of the family’s oil company. Along the way, if he found a way to belittle the competitors he ran across in each Friday night’s episode, so much the better.
JR would swindle, lie to and double-cross anyone at any time, including members of his family.
I think JR would have been good friends with Laban from today’s text. Laban is Jacob’s father-in-law. Laban already has double-crossed Jacob once, by switching out older daughter Leah for younger Rachel after Jacob had worked seven years to win the younger sister’s hand in marriage. Now that Jacob has 11 sons and at least one daughter, he wants to take his wives, their maids and children and venture out on his own. He strikes a deal with Laban to take the sheep, goats and lambs with defects as payment for all Jacob has done. In true JR fashion, Laban agrees to the deal, even praising Jacob for his efforts. Then, Laban sets out to rig the heard so that Jacob will not benefit from the agreement.
We face people like Laban — and JR — all the time. How are we to respond to such devious behavior? We may want revenge, but Jesus gives us a better idea. In Matthew 5:39, Jesus famously says “If people slap you on the right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.” It makes sense, right? Don’t be like Laban — or JR — and instead be like Jesus.
How did Jacob respond? In good “Dallas” fashion, that’s a cliff-hanger. Be sure to read tomorrow to find out.
— Todd Seifert, director of communications
Prayer for Reflection
Gracious God, turning the other cheek is difficult. We want revenge and we want the world to be fair. Help us to understand that the world can only be that way if we all do our part and stand up for what is right, when we do our best to live as Jesus taught. In our Savior’s holy name, Amen.
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