[Diocesian Bishop of Delhi-Bombay Diocese - Marthoma Church]


"The man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy. So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the LORD, and pitched his tent there; and there Isaac’s servants dug a well." [Genesis 26:13,25]

This is an age of affluent and wealthy people: an era, which got plenty of money. As per the financial figures, at this moment the country is improving to be strong in the Economical situation. Government is now able to stand itself up with some degree of security. Furthermore, these are the days of luxurious cars. In the free market all commodities are made available in plenty. We need not depend to any outside country for any purchase. However, this era poses a major challenge that the poor is neglected in the society as downtrodden. Money power became the might of the contemporary society. The economic restructuring and deprivation have increased the monetary hardships and human damage caused for the poor.

Contemporary tendency of man is to acquire wealth as much as one desires, by any illicit means. Unbelieving people are buying the Church with their wealth and prosperity. Also this is an age of debt traps. Bank debt claimed many lives in Kerala especially drought-hit Wayanad. With all these issues in view, we should think of the referred scripture portion. Many times, the criticizers blame the Government for any increase in poverty and point out that the inequality between the richest to the poorest is every day increasing. The Holy words of the Bible also give an answer to these accusations.

When the Verse talks about a man who became richer and richer, it refers to a person who was born to a wealthy and noble family with a big list of rich people. When we think of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, we consider him as the great son of a great father. The same attribute is applicable to the person referred here, Isaac. Bible does not say that being rich is sin. The Holy Bible distinguishes between possession of wealth and love of wealth. Only the latter is condemned. The love of wealth and desire to become wealthy bring a variety of temptations and has the potential for breakage of one’s spiritual life. It is tempered by the reality that all property belongs to God and that we are trustees or stewards of God’s property. However, wealth can become the center of our life and take God's place. Then it becomes the idol of our life. It is unwise to make financial success a priority as no one can serve two masters at a time. The love of money leads to evil and our interest lie where our money is invested. Holy Scriptures calls a man as 'fool', who planned to build greater barns and to bestow his fruits and good for generations. We all are accountable for the wealth and talents God had given to us. A Christian should be a model and the Church should take an upper hand in this regard.

In our society, marriage reception is a field where we expose great extravagance. Followers of Christ should be the role models to avoid these squandering. How many families are ruined by extravagant expenses at weddings out of bravado or for idle show? Many parents are struggling to conduct marriage of their children for want of enough income. Spendthrifts are in the family of evils. So those who misuse or squander God's gifts are ungrateful to God. In the episode of Christ’s feeding five thousand men with five loaves, Jesus commanded them to collect the spare without spoiling them. They took up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets full, one basket for each apostle, so that they could make this broken meat serve another time. The Apostles initially doubted whether God could furnish a table in the wilderness for such huge crowd. Here we see a Lord who reinstate the doubters.

Isaac was a man who became rich towards God. The meaning of the word Isaac is 'to laugh'. Isaac was named such because when his mother, Sarah, overheard that she would bear a child in her old age, she laughed. When the child was born, she said, "God had made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me". The birth of Isaac bespeak a great experience of rejoice for all, a real evidence of God's mercy and interaction of God in a human helpless situation. Author of Hebrews write in Chapter 11 Verse 11, that 'By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised.' All the births of this world are great wonders. All children born are the expression of the marvel of the creation of God. Psalmist talk about it: "I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.' [Psalms 139:14]

All the children are born as per the intention of God and each child give glory and joy to this world by his/her birth. Father of Isaac, Abraham was an opulent with great flocks and herds, servants and tents. Land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together. Abraham was a captain of a small army in his own house with three hundred and eighteen well-trained soldiers born in his house. When Abram heard that his relative Lot had been taken captive by five kings, he followed them with his Army and released his cousin, men, women and their possession. Isaac was born in this wealthy family as the son of this wealthy man.

In the referred scripture portion we know that the wealthy Isaac had done three things. He built an altar and worshipped God, he pitched his tent and his servants dug a well. Altar is an expression of prayer and sacrifice. Communication and conversation between God and man is done here. It is a stage of fellowship between the triune God and the earthly human or the place of prayer. The biggest prayer in this world is a small Greek word, 'Kyrie Eleison!' which means 'Lord, have mercy'. While praying, the state of our mind should be that of scarcity and not of sufficiency. We must subdue our self when we approach Him for the fellowship with Him. In the Lord's Prayer Jesus taught us to reach God with our supplications as a fellowship or intended for communal, rather than private. The pronoun 'our' and 'we' are taught to be used in place of 'mine' or 'I'. This pluralism indicates the entire Universe. Prayer should be a total submission to the will of an all-powerful, perfect God.

Covenant of our fellowship with God demand us for maintaining the relationship with God with trustworthiness and to follow His commandments. The commandment given through Moses is the manifesto of relationship of man with God and the relationship between the man and the society. The first three commandments are religious and others are social. The breakage of this covenant and the shortage of trustworthiness prescribed for the same is the sin, which also can be termed as transgression, misdemeanor, misdeed or devaluation. The power, which leads us to the true path, is Holy Spirit and the Grace of God. Main theme of last WCC also was same. 'Holy Spirit lead us to the truth and transfigure the world.' Departing from God is the state of deadliness. That is why the father of prodigal son says that his son was dead and he came back to life. The experience of salvation is the experience of worshipping. Within us and in all creation of God, we should perceive the presence of God. We should pray continuously and persistently as sweet savour to God to this cause. Prayer moments are valuable time we experience in the presence of God. Even our onlookers can perceive in us the presence of Holy Spirit.

Isaac was a man submitted himself as the sacrifice lamb for the ardent faith of his father Abraham. He was a man who had experienced the sharpness and greatness of faith. When Isaac was forty years of age, Abraham sent Eliezer, his steward, into Mesopotamia to search a wife for him from his own clan. Eliezer brought the fiancée of Isaac, Rebecca and she was delighted with vision of her master at a distance. It is referred in the Bible that Isaac was in the wilderness undergoing meditation. This should be a great inspiration for all the would-be couples to enter into their married life with prayer and meditation. This will definitely lead for reduction of the breakage in our families. We should be rich towards God than giving important to the money factor. We should prepare the youth towards marriage. Our life will be molded exactly as we prepare for it.

In the Book of Kings we read Elijah repaired the altar of the LORD which had been torn down, Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, "Israel shall be your name." He started worshipping in the name of Lord in the great assembly of people. Restoration of the society is a great need of the time. In the prophecy of Ezekiel we read, "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one." [Ezekiel 22:30] When God search for proper people for intercessionary prayers, He finds none in our era. Is it a reality of life in our society? How is our prayer life? How much time we spend with our Lord who had given us twenty-four free hours to our account? Though Isaac continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy, he was perfect in his prayer life. When the King asked Nehemiah, why your face is seen sad, Nehemiah replied to the King 'Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?" Our family should be restored and that should bless our land. Relations should be strengthened.

This is the age of prosperity theology. People think that prosperity is only gift of God and sufferings are the act of wicked and Satan. This is a wrong notion. It is an aberrant teaching. Jesus told that we got sufferings in this world, yet to be valiant. The language of cross could not be discerned by this world. It is the language of defeat and surrender. Even Peter told Jesus, let that not be to you. When he was conceived with Holy Spirit he realized the language of suffering and nobility of the cross. Peter told in his Epistle; "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin" [1 Peter 4:1]. The language of cross is alien language understood each other after downpour of the Holy Spirit.

Isaac pitched his tent. Why a rich man should pitch a tent and live in that? Author of Epistle to Hebrews inform us: "By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise, or he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God." [Hebrew 11:9] Many people live in his world only for eating. The first temptation of Jesus was also the same. Life is bigger than food and body is important than the cloth. "The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." Here we understand the meaning of life in its perfection. Though Isaac was wealthy, he had a clear vision of eternity. So he was considered great and wealthy. In the 90th Psalm, Moses pray to Lord, "Help us to count our days wisely."

Further we read story of many wells dug and covered. The servants of Isaac dug a well. He opened the wells that his father had dug, and out of respect to his father called them by the same names that he had given them. This is the appropriate utilization of wealth given by God for the utility of the public. They drank and satisfied from the same spring of their forefathers.

[Extract from Devotional Address delivered at Maramon Convention 2006
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]

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