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A Peaceful Parting

Key References: Genesis 13; Patriarchs and Prophets, chap. 12, pp. 132, 133; The Bible Story (1994), vol. 1, pp. 149-151. Our Beliefs, nos. 14, 23, 7

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“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’ ” (Genesis 13:8).

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We follow God’s plan for solving conflicts when we put others first.

Have you ever had a hurtful argument? How did you feel? When there is conflict, someone usually gets hurt. Abraham discovered one way to avoid conflict. Imagine how it happened.

Abraham sighed. This was not the first time that the herdsmen had come and complained about Lot’s servants. If the quarreling between Lot’s servants and Abraham’s servants continued, someone could get hurt.

Abraham was a wealthy man. Unlike a rich man today who counts his wealth in stocks or money or real estate, Abraham’s wealth was in flocks of sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys. For this reason he needed a lot of land to feed his flocks of animals. Finding grazing for all these animals was difficult.

That was only part of Abraham’s problem. His nephew Lot lived with him, and he was rich too. He had lots of sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys as well. As long as Abraham and Lot stayed together, the land couldn’t support all those hungry mouths. That was why the servants were always bickering and fighting these days. Like a big family in a little house, they had outgrown their space. It was time to go their separate ways.

As the older of the two, Abraham had the right to decide where he wanted to live and to ask Lot to move on. However, Abraham loved Lot and knew that if he did that, it might cause bad feelings. So Abraham went and talked to Lot.

He said, “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” (Genesis 13:8, 9).

Lot stopped to think. He owed everything to his uncle Abraham. He knew that he had acquired all his riches because he had chosen to live and travel with Abraham. A while ago they had gone to Egypt and come back with even more wealth. Lot knew that the socially acceptable thing to do was to say “No, Uncle Abraham; you have the first choice.” In their society the older men always had the first choice. Good manners dictated that he give Abraham the first choice. Lot knew that God had promised all this land to Abraham and his descendants. He looked around.

Over there on the left were fields of waving grain, olive groves, and vineyards. Not bad. He could be comfortable there. But there on the right—wow! That was the most fertile valley in the country. It was as rich and green as the Garden of Eden. The cities, too, were rich and beautiful!

Quickly Lot decided that since Abraham had offered him a choice, he would take advantage of the situation. He chose to go to the east, and the two parted company with no hard feelings. But what if Abraham had chosen first and selected the fertile valley? Would Lot have gone the other way with no hard feelings, as Abraham did? Or would it have been the beginning of a family feud? Families have been torn apart over less. Just watch grown brothers and sisters go to war with each other over their parents’ furniture.

The story of Abraham and Lot has a happy ending, but not because of anything Lot did. The two parted peacefully because Abraham gave up his right to the best. He was simply practicing the best principle known for getting along with others, especially family members.

Moms are really good at this one, probably because they hate family bickering more than anyone else. Ever notice what happens when there are four people in the family and three pieces of pie? Mom decides she doesn’t really want any. Or if someone is cold and left their coat at home? Mom wraps hers around the shivering kid.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said (Matthew 7:12). “Honor one another above yourselves” is how it’s put in Romans 12:10. This is also the message of Abraham’s story. It could be summarized this way: “Give others the first choice and be happy with what you get.” It’s an ancient rule for getting along that still holds true today.