After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I have done for you.” –Genesis 30:25-26
Jacob probably never dreamt that he would spend 20 years of hard labor under his uncle Laban in Paddan-aram (31:38). His first seven years would seem a breeze, at least in comparison to receiving his dream wife, Rachel. But Laban outwitted his nephew.
Jacob’s deception with Esau and his father came back to haunt him. Instead of receiving Rachel as his bride, Laban gave him Leah.
And the Trickster got tricked.
But even though Laban conned Jacob into another seven years of toil in exchange for Rachel, Jacob kept his end of the bargain. However, another six years would slip through the hourglass before Jacob finally breaks free from Laban. Meanwhile, eleven sons and one daughter are born.
You may read Genesis 30:25-43: Bible Gateway.
Jacob couldn’t just pack his bags and leave at leisure. Shared ownership complicated the authority structure in this Eastern family. To leave without receiving his uncle/father-in-law’s permission could lead to war within the family clan.
Laban’s desire for Jacob to stay isn’t because he loves him, but rather because his prosperity is due to Jacob’s presence. When Laban claims that his idols have enlightened him to this fact, Jacob candidly tells him that God’s blessing is due to His faithfulness and Jacob’s hard work.
Jacob’s answer to Laban’s increased wage offer indicates that he has prepared for this moment (vs. 31-33).
Don’t give me anything. But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: Let me go through your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages,” (vs. 31-32).
Laban agrees to this arrangement.
Jacob’s proposal favors Laban. Layman’s Bible Commentary notes: “Goats in the Middle East are generally black or dark brown (Song of Solomon 4:1), and the sheep are always nearly white (Ps. 147:16; Song of Solomon 4:2; 6:6; Daniel 7:9).”
Laban, however, still attempts to cheat Jacob (vs. 35-36). He places the speckled animals under the care of his sons. Then he separates them from Jacob with a good three-day journey distance.
Meanwhile, Jacob continues caring for the rest of Laban’s flocks and counters with a God inspired plan involving tree branches (31:10). How did these visuals help increase the streaked characteristics in the young? Although some herdsmen believed that vivid impressions at mating time influenced their offspring, God’s promise of provision and selective breeding were most likely the contributing factors to Jacob’s success.
Selfishness is concern for self at the expense of others.
While most of us battle selfishness at times, some—like Laban—embrace it with outstretched arms. In a culture steeped in “me-ism,” how do we free ourselves from its grasp?
Another tool to oust selfishness is to exercise kindness. “[T]here’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship,” says Emily Esfhani Smith.
This past week I was treated to a random act of kindness. After unplugging our bathroom faucet and checking a couple of other dripping faucets, our plumber says, “I won’t charge you. It was a simple procedure.”
I’m sure my jaw dropped. There had always been a service fee just to have him drive to our home. I couldn’t help but think: Who does that? Obviously my plumber does! Needless to say, he made my day as I thanked him (and God) for his gift of generosity during a bill filled month.
Not only is it refreshing to observe and/or receive an act of kindness, but it’s also rewarding to be on the giving side. Jesus Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35).
There are many ways to give of one’s time, talent, spiritual gifts and money. Let’s ask God: who, what and where He desires for us to give. Then let’s go ahead and make someone’s day by stepping out in obedience.
Have a great week! 🙂