[Diocesian Metropolitan of Chengannur-Mavelikara Diocese, Marthoma Church]


'Now the LORD had said to Abram, Go out of your country, and from your kindred, and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you: And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing: ...Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.' [Genesis 12:1-2; 13:1-11]

Key Verse of the above cited scripture portion is that 'Are we not brothers? Are we not sisters?’ In addition to these two questions, we should add two more questions for our meditation in this lent period: "Where we go? What for we go?" We live in an age of increased conflicts, confrontation, friction, feud, litigations and altercations. Even Churches and social organizations are not exception for these. Peace and happiness are now got escheated. Growth and progress are now shriveled up. As each one consider his brother as enemy, violence and plunder are increased. In this context, the question of Abraham, 'Are we not brothers?’ is very relevant, apt, significant and worthy of thought. The separation of Abraham and Lot is described here. This portion gives us a message how to handle strife with utmost maturity, prudence, wisdom, discernment and humility.

In the first two sentence, we read that, God the Lord had chosen and separated Abraham. Lord told him to leave his country, relatives, father's house and go to the land shown by God. The command was to believe and trust God to go from security to insecurity. It was a challenge and promise to Abraham. It was an invitation to plunge into an uncertainty. The promise of God was that he would be a blessing for all clans and families of the earth. At the age of seventy-five years, Abraham took Sara his wife, and Lot his brother's son and started his journey to Canaan. Canaan was inhibited by Canaanites and Perizzites. Abraham was an alien to the land. Abraham pitched his tent and built an altar there to the Lord as per his worshipping practice. The tent and altar were incessant companions of Abraham. This involves two major thoughts, firstly, Abraham considered his life of this world as a pilgrimage, and secondly, he was a true worshipper of Lord. He practiced it wherever he was, whether it is in Shechem, Bethel, Canaan or any other place.

It was at this time there was a famine in the land of Canaan. The famine had shaken Abraham and he failed to recall for a while about his call and mission of God and his solemn vows. Overpowered by his self-thoughts, Abraham went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. There, we see that Abraham did not make any altar in Egypt. As he made his own decision he messed up everything. His care for self-security made him to loose his esteem, honesty and dignity in Egypt. Though she was old, Sarah was beautiful. Eventually, Sarah had to reach out in the palace of Pharaoh with clandestine involvement. The thoughtlessness of Abraham had caused to jeopardize himself. Pharaoh entreated Abraham well for her sake: and he gave him sheep, oxen, he-asses, menservants, maidservants, she-asses and camels. These indecent and improper riches slumped Abraham to an indecorous and problematic life.

One of the causes for the restlessness of our contemporary society is an indecent and improper riches. Though Abraham became very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold, his improper wealth has caused feud, strife and quarrel in the household. The herdsmen of Abraham and herdsmen of Lot started to quarrel each other. Their possessions were so great that they were not able to dwell together. However, Abraham did not desire that this strife among the herdsmen should outspread to the owner's level. Here there are two important pertinent questions: How to handle strife and how to handle prosperity? Exactly as the poverty is a big setback for the society, the riches are also a burden. There is a burden of care in getting them, fear in keeping them, temptation in using them, guilt in abusing them, sorrow in losing them. Great possessions make men heavy and unwieldy. The quarrels due to riches are the reproach of wealth, and give occasion, as much as any thing, to the adversaries to bring shame for the name of God.

Now the riches are turned out as catalyst for breaking relations. The consideration of our relation to each other, as brothers and sisters, should always prevail to subdue our passions and thwart our contentions. Brothers should be loved as brothers above all prosperity. This is the great biblical consideration. Abraham made the first overture of reconciliation with affection and great consideration and with a condescending spirit. The proposition of Abraham was ruled by reason. Let there be no strife between us and let us part as friends and brothers to turn away any wrath and for the sake of peace. If we need to keep peace, never render railing for railing.

Lot had an eye to the goodness of the land. Jordan was well watered everywhere and with great greenery. It stood near to Sodom. That valley was like the Garden of Eden itself. Lot chose all that plain of the Valley of Jordan. Earth is now the center of dream of man. The evil choices and settlements are guided and governed by the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, or the pride of life. But our choices should be based on Christian principles. What we feel best for our life may not be the best for our souls.

We read of the sorrowful parting between Jesus and the young rich man. The young man asked Christ what he should do more than he has done to obtain eternal life. Jesus had a kindness for him and He loved him. Jesus said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." This story points to us the difficulty of the salvation for those who have an abundance of this world. The riches of good men are the fruits of God’s blessing and it is to share with the neighbors.

Last year this time, Marthoma Church had decided for making 1500 houses for poor and called for the participation of its members. The plan was to raise nine Crores of Rupees to make 1500 houses at the rate of Rs. 60000 for each house. Above the expectations of all of us, the Church members had sumptuously contributed fourteen Crores of Rupees which was sufficient for building 2500 houses. Now we have around 3500 applications and we will be able to give houses for these applicants in course of time as the funds are still coming in.

Religion should not be limited within the four walls of Church. God had become man to be with man. Jesus was a campaigner for the poor, oppressed, tormented, separated, rejected, neglected, marginalized and hated by the main stream. That is the way of Christ. Church is established for this same cause. 'Are we not brothers and sisters?’, that is the root thoughts for all these.

Worldly wealth is given to us as a steward. It is not for the self-use, but it is to share with others; by which the giver and the taker both get joy out of it. True piety will very well consist with great prosperity. The Christian way is not grabbing but it is sharing. We should be thankful to God for whatever we have received.

[Extract from Devotional Address delivered at Maramon Convention 2008
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]

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