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The Ultimate Sucker

What greed yields

Genesis 31:1–13 (ESV)

Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.”

So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me. If he said, ‘The spotted shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’”

The surprise here is that God calls Himself “the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me.” Jacob thinks he’s done a brilliant job of working his deal with Laban. God trumps the whole thing by reminding Jacob of the other deal, the deal he made at Bethel.

Think about what a shock this must have been to Jacob. His breeding trick is working. His portion of the flock keeps growing. He thinks he’s some kind of genius negotiator/shepherd. Then … Pop! The bubble bursts. It was all God! And the livestock were just props; Jacob’s deal with Laban was a sideshow. The promise Jacob made to God at Bethel is the only thing that matters.

Jacob has to feel like he’s been had. He got distracted from the original deal he made with God and was scoring points in a ballgame that didn’t count. Meanwhile, God checkmates him.

But the toughest pill of all is that this is all his fault. No one tricked him; he tricked himself.

His greed made him the ultimate sucker.

We’ve all had a wake-up moment where we realize that we’re paying attention to the wrong thing. I’m worrying about a game on TV while dinner burns. I’m worrying about burning dinner instead of preparing for an important meeting. I’m busy preparing for a meeting and miss the signs of a heart attack.

One of the keys to growing in Christ is changing our focus. All our secular priorities aren’t what life is all about. Jesus didn’t die for our 401k plans.

Never forget that your own growth is your highest priority. We tend to be so busy trying to grow others that we neglect our own growth. That’s tantamount to thinking we’ve arrived.

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

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

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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