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Clever Righteousness

Shrewd and gentle at the same time

Genesis 23:17–20 (ESV)

So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites.

Abraham was being more than a little coy in describing himself as a sojourner. Though the Hittites don’t know it, this is the land the LORD promised him.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. … And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.  — Genesis 12:1, 5–7 (ESV)

In the next chapter, Abraham will make it clear he isn’t leaving and neither is Isaac. Though he said he was buying the property for the cave to bury Sarah, he bought the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area. This is a pretty good-sized chunk of real estate.

And his making such a big show of paying the full price is strategic. He wants to make sure that the whole property is sold in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city.

This is title insurance. Abraham is putting down roots.

You can be righteous and clever at the same time. In fact, we’re commanded to be exactly that.

“So be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” — Matthew 10:16b (ESV)

Abraham is cleverly preventing a future problem—someone disputing his ownership of the field. He’s being wise on a number of levels.

Abraham knows that people are fallen. Thus, he anticipates their possible sinful actions and precludes those actions in advance.

But note that Abraham does all this without insulting or offending anyone. His actions are neighborly and ethical, yet shrewd.

This is the perfect model for how Christians should do business.

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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