For ten years I worked for Jim, and among other things, he taught me to "keep your antennas up." He also told me to "keep your hand on your wallet." In no way is this meant to trivialize the lessons I learned from the man: it is just the opposite. Those lessons stood me in good stead once I met my personal Laban.
This original Laban was Jacob's father in-law and boss, and he epitomizes the proverbial smiling snake. Jacob learned through bitter experience that whenever Laban offered him a deal he couldn't refuse, then it was time to keep his antennas up and his hand on his wallet. Jacob later claimed that Laban had changed their agreement ten times in the twenty years he had served him, and "if the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed." (Genesis 31:41 NIV)
Genesis 29 through 31 relates the story of Jacob's trials with this man named Laban. While Jacob had a reputation for being the wheeler-dealer sort, Laban showed what a piker his son in-law and employee was. Still, Jacob acted in way that I'm not sure I could.
During the last several months I have had uncounted conversations with people who are dealing with their own Laban stories, and it's tempting to try to play the game Laban's way in a sort of turn-about-is fair-play scenario. The human side of me is sad to admit that a Christian does not have that option.
Peter wrote, "Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully." (1 Peter 2:18-20 NKJV)
Paul wrote, "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ, not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatsoever good thing any man does, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. (Ephesians 6:5-8) And he reminded us elsewhere that in the final analysis "you serve the Lord Jesus Christ." (Colossians 3:24)
The evidence of Genesis is that Jacob lived
these principles. He served Laban with all his might (31:6). Laban even
admitted that God had blessed him because of Jacob's service (30:27). Jacob
bore the responsibility for lost livestock, was scrupulously honest in
his responsibilities, and he endured horrible conditions out of a sense
of duty (31:38-40).
But Jacob had learned the lesson that God wanted him to learn. God was watching over him ("I have seen all that Laban is doing to you" -- 31:12). And Jacob admitted that "God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands." (31:42)
Throughout Jacob's twenty years of toil, he kept true to his own integrity. He honored his end of the bargain even if Laban failed to honor his. Ultimately, I wonder if that's what God is after, to see if we will remain true to the principles of honesty and integrity even if those around us do not. That's the true gold we're pursuing, a treasure in heaven that won't be tarnished.
Excerpted from The Sabbath Morning Companion, March 11, 2005, by Lenny Cacchio. All rights reserved.