25Jun 25 June, 2013. Tuesday of Week Twelve

Gen 13:5ff. After quarrels between Abram’s men and those of Lot, the groups must go their separate ways.

Mt 7:6ff. Towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount Matthew places this series of short, disconnected sayings of Jesus.

First Reading: Genesis 13:2, 5-18

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together, and there was strife between the herders of Abram’s livestock and the herders of Lot’s livestock. At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites lived in the land.

Then Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herders and my herders; for we are kindred. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take he left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.” Lot looked about him, and saw that the plain of the Jordan was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar; this was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. So Lot chose for himself all the plain of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward; thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the people of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” So Abram moved his tent, and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the Lord.

Gospel: Matthew 7:6, 12-14

“Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Coping with success

Today’s texts manifest the age-old truth that success can go to the head, power can corrupt and prosperity can make even good people greedy for more. It seems that in life we often cope better with our hopes than with their fulfillment. People who must work hard and pass through all the stages of developing a business, a farm, or forming a family, generally show more care and appreciation for the results of their work, and more joy in their achievement, than those (the next generation?) who receive it on a golden platter.

We could also be trapped by our own success and betrayed by our own talents. We tend to make our worst mistakes when we have the money and the leisure to do so, and even family members turn against each other in the flush of prosperity. Today’s Scripture not only reflects our common difficulty in dealing with success, education and achievement; it also advises us on a way out of this impasse. Abram’s first goal was not wealth, prestige, honour or security, but peace. He said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between your herdsmen and mine, for we are relatives.” This peace is marked with dignity and love and the sense of family, leading to the generous and gracious offer: “If you prefer the left, I will go to the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left.”

Abram shows quiet reflection and good judgment, an approach that illustrates the advice of Jesus, not to toss your pearls before swine, or to follow the wide and easy way to damnation.