We are first introduced to Abram in Genesis 11:26, where he is listed as a descendent of Shem, one of the sons of Noah. At the beginning of chapter 12, we read that God told Abram to leave his homeland and to travel to a foreign land, because God promised to make of him "a great nation" and to bless him (Genesis 12:2).
Abram was obedient and gathered up his belongings and servants to follow God's command. He also took with him his nephew, Lot. God was true to His promise, and soon Abram found himself blessed with many possessions and servants. God also blessed Lot, and the two men discovered that their herds had grown too large for the area to accommodate them both. Abram let Lot choose which land he wanted, and Lot chose to live in the plain of Jordan, near the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were inhabited by wicked people.
Soon, Lot found himself in trouble. A war broke out between several kings of the area, and Sodom and Gomorrah were raided and their people taken captive, including Lot and his family. When word of their capture reached Abram, he and his servants fought for their release. God granted Abram and his men a great victory, and they were able to recover all of the captives and goods that were taken.
The king of Sodom was grateful to Abram for recovering his people and possessions. He was so grateful, in fact, that he told Abram to "keep for yourself all the goods you have recovered" (Genesis 14:21). This would have been quite a reward to receive all of the recovered goods rather than just a portion of them. However, Abram responded by giving a tithe of everything to Melchizedek, the priest of God, and refused to take any of the goods for himself. He told the king, "I will not take a thread or sandal strap or anything that belongs to you, so you can never say, 'I made Abram rich.'
I will take nothing except what the servants have eaten" (Genesis 14:23-24).
Abram's behavior indicates two things. First, it shows that he recognized the holiness of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was both a priest and a king, and we know that he was a representative of God in this passage. By giving a tithe to him, Abram was showing that he recognized the lordship of God over all things. Abram wanted to honor Him as the giver of all blessings and material possessions.
Abram did not want to take anything that belonged to the king of Sodom because he might claim to be the one who made Abram rich (verse 23). Abram recognized that earthly possessions did not come from earthly kings. He was showing the king that his wealth came from God alone, and he would rely on God to provide for him.
As we reflect on this past year, what will we see of our own lives? Many of us have faced battles this year, whether unemployment, financial difficulties, sickness or other problems. Yet we can be assured that God is still in control. We must recognize that everything in our lives is a blessing from our Lord and Savior.
Once we recognize God's lordship and our position as steward, we can be free to express our thankfulness through generosity. Certainly giving to our churches and other charities is a way of giving thanks. We can also give of our time and talents. Spending time with the elderly, sick, orphans, homeless and those in need is a way of giving thanks. Taking a meal to someone or babysitting for a single parent are good examples. Reaching out to new people in our community or college students and singles who are without family during the holidays are also good ideas.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and executive producer of the new God Provides Film Learning Experience. (Abram's Reward, adapted from Genesis 12-15:6, is one of six short films featured in the Learning Experience. Learn more at Crown.org/GodProvides.) Cofounded by Howard Dayton and the late Larry Burkett, Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry with 200 staff and over 10,000 volunteers dedicated to equipping people globally with biblically based financial stewardship tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching.
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