October 5, 2015 • Life for Leaders
But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have sworn to the LORD, God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, “I have made Abram rich.” I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me—Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share.’”
As leaders, we often find ourselves making promises and commitments. We say, “I will do this” or “I will not do this.” As Christians, we understand that God is a witness of what we have said we will and will not do. But, inevitably, circumstances challenge us to break promises or commitments, or at least to bend them out of shape. We may be tempted to back away from what we have previously promised, especially if it seems to be advantageous in the moment. In times like these we encounter the incisive question: Are you as good as your word?
In Genesis 14, Abram faced such a test and passed with flying colors. This test came after a military action led by Abram, in which he defeated a king who had taken people and possessions from Sodom. When he returned home, the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself” (14:21).
Yet Abram rejected the king’s command. Why? Not because it was unfair. In fact, the king was attempting to compensate Abram well for his victory. Rather, Abram’s rejection was an act of personal integrity. He explained, “I have sworn to the LORD, God Most High, maker of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal-thong or anything that is yours, so that you might not say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’ I will take nothing but what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me – Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them take their share” (14:22-24). Abram had made a commitment to the Lord not to be enriched by the king of Sodom. He did not want to be indebted in any way to the king. (And, perhaps, Abram did not want to enrich himself at the expense of Lot, his nephew, whose possessions would have been included in the king’s offer.) So Abram was as good as his word.
Yet Abram was also committed to the flourishing of the men who had joined him in battle. So he allowed them to receive their fair share of the property their efforts had secured.
In this story, Abram’s faithfulness to God, his personal integrity before the Lord, led him to act as he had promised. He was not led astray by the chance to enrich himself further. Rather, he kept his word, thus honoring the Lord and showing himself to be a leader worthy of trust.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of any time in your life when you were tempted to break a promise or commitment that you had made?
In a situation like that of Abram, what would help you to be as good as your word?
Gracious God, thank you for the example of Abram in this story. Thank you for his faithfulness in keeping the commitment he had made to you. Help me, Lord, to be this kind of person, this kind of leader. May I do what I have promised and abstain from what I have said I would not do. May I be as good as my word in all of my relationships, most of all in my relationship with you. By your grace, may I be faithful to fulfill what I have promised you in every part of life, including my work as a leader. Amen.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.