How should we handle good fortune?

What do you do when you are more fortunate than other people? Do you gloat? Do you make sure that those who are less fortunate know that you have something they don’t? What should we do in those situations? Genesis 16 tells us how Hagar handled her good fortune, and the book of Proverbs contains two verses that tell us not to follow Hagar’s example. Let’s start at the first verse of Genesis 16 and learn about Hagar.

One of the recurring themes of Abram and Sarai’s life was their lack of children. Genesis 16 tells us that Sarai tried to solve this problem with a form of surrogate motherhood. Notice the highlighted phrase below.

Gen. 16:1 ¶ Now Sarai, Abram’s wife had borne him no children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.

Gen. 16:2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.

Sarai asked Abram to impregnate her maid, but Sarai’s intention was that the child would belong to Sarai. The plan worked and Hagar became pregnant, but that led to a problem. Notice the word “despised” in the following verses.

Gen. 16:3 After Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.

Gen. 16:4 He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.

Gen. 16:5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.”

When Hagar conceived, she despised Sarai, she looked down on Sarai because Hagar could  conceive and Sarai could not. You could say that Hagar was gloating.

Is gloating wrong? Is it wrong to despise someone? Keep in mind that Hagar was despising Sarai over something that was completely beyond Sarai’s control. Hagar had the good fortune to be able to conceive while Sarai’s inability to conceive was beyond her control.

Do we do the same thing? Do we despise people or look down on them over things completely beyond their control?

  • Do we despise people who can’t have children?
  • Do we despise people whose facial features are odd and/or unattractive?
  • Do we despise people with physical disabilities?
  • Do we despise people with mental disabilities?
  • Do we despise people with severe health issues?
  • Do we despise people who are short?
  • Do we despise people who are less intelligent than us?
  • Do we despise people who have been hit with financial catastrophe?
  • Do we despise people who have lost their job?

Consider the following proverbs:

Prov. 14:21 He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.

Prov. 11:12 He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a man of understanding keeps silent.

The next time we realize that we have something someone else doesn’t, let’s resist the urge to gloat. Let’s remind ourselves that perhaps the inequality is due to God’s choice and not our ability, and let’s treat the other person accordingly.


Further reading

Does God have regard for you?

What will happen when we stand before God?

What is the proper perspective to have about ourselves?


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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”