Our society puts a lot of emphasis on financial planning and saving for retirement. We are encouraged to save and invest, and there are charts and formulas indicating how much we should save each month in order to have a retirement nest egg large enough to live off of. There are also dos and don’ts regarding what we should do with our investments. But are our retirement plans actually under our control? How does God influence our financial success? Genesis 30 demonstrates that God is in control of our future wealth.
Jacob had been serving Laban for 14 years. He had served 7 years for Laban’s daughter Leah, and then he had served another 7 years for Laban’s daughter, Rachel. As you read the verses below, notice that Laban had prospered on account of Jacob, but that Jacob wanted to start providing for his own household. In other words, Jacob wanted to start building his own wealth.
Gen. 30:25 ¶ Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country.
Gen. 30:26 “Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.”
Gen. 30:27 But Laban said to him, “If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account.”
Gen. 30:28 He continued, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.”
Gen. 30:29 But he said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me.
Gen. 30:30 “For you had little before I came and it has increased to a multitude, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?”
Now notice the agreement between Laban and Jacob.
Gen. 30:31 So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock:
Gen. 30:32 let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep and every black one among the lambs and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages.
Gen. 30:33 “So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen.”
I’m not entirely sure how to understand this agreement. Jacob said he was going to pass through the flock and remove the speckled and spotted animals. Were those animals supposed to be part of his wages, or were they to go to Laban and Jacob’s wages would just be any speckled and spotted animals that were born in the future? I’m not sure. In the next verses we read that Laban removed the striped and spotted and sent them a three days’ journey away. Either Laban was acting according to the agreement, or he was once again being deceitful by removing them before Jacob could get them. Again, I’m not sure.
Gen. 30:34 Laban said, “Good, let it be according to your word.”
Gen. 30:35 So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons.
Gen. 30:36 And he put a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
Regardless whether Laban was acting rightly or wrongly, the flocks were separated. Next, Jacob started practicing selective breeding by putting rods in the watering troughs. I’m not quite sure if the rods were supposed to influence the color of the offspring, or if the rods were supposed to encourage the flocks to mate. Either way, Jacob used selective breeding to benefit himself.
Gen. 30:37 ¶ Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods.
Gen. 30:38 He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink.
Gen. 30:39 So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted.
Even though Jacob only had solid color animals, the animals he did have carried the genetics to produce striped, speckled, and spotted animals.
Gen. 30:40 Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock.
Gen. 30:41 Moreover, whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods;
Gen. 30:42 but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s.
Gen. 30:43 So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.
Jacob’s tactics worked and Jacob became wealthy. However, Jacob’s success caused jealousy because Laban became less wealthy. As you read what happened next, notice that even though Jacob had done his part to achieve success, he ultimately gave God the credit for his success.
Gen. 31:1 ¶ Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.”
Gen. 31:2 Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly.
Gen. 31:3 Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Gen. 31:4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field,
Gen. 31:5 and said to them, “I see your father’s attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me.
Gen. 31:6 “You know that I have served your father with all my strength.
Gen. 31:7 “Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me.
Gen. 31:8 “If he spoke thus, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth striped.
Gen. 31:9 “Thus God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me.
Gen. 31:10 “And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled.
Gen. 31:11 “Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’
Gen. 31:12 “He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.
Gen. 31:13 ‘I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’”
Gen. 31:14 Rachel and Leah said to him, “Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house?
Gen. 31:15 “Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price.
Gen. 31:16 “Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you.”
Gen. 31:17 ¶ Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels;
Gen. 31:18 and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac.
The text makes it clear that God realized that Laban was trying to cheat Jacob; therefore, God intervened and made Jacob prosperous. Yes, Jacob did his part by working hard and doing everything within his power to be successful; however, Jacob’s success was ultimately due to the fact that Yahweh was with him.
In our lives there are many things we can do to prepare for retirement; however, we need to keep in mind that ultimately God is in control. In addition to saving, investing, and all the other financial planning advice we get, we should remember to pray and have the right attitude toward money. Consider the following verses
James 4:1 ¶ What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?
James 4:2 You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.
James 4:3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
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