Silver and Gold: Abraham

Silver and gold, silver and gold
Ev’ryone wishes for silver and gold
How do you measure its worth?
Just by the pleasure it gives here on earth
– “Silver and Gold” [lyrics by Johnny Marks]

I have fond memories of this Burl Ives song, from the Christmas cartoon Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). Yet silver and gold won’t help Rudolph lead Santa’s sleigh or help Santa’s misfit toys leave their island prison. Without love and friendship, they’re useless. Silver and gold can’t buy friendships with people who “comfort” and “edify one another” either (1 Thessalonians 4:18, 5:11).[1] Nor can they give us eternal joy. So why do we want to be rich?

business-money-piggy-bankJesus tells us not to store “treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19). He also warns that we can’t “serve God and mammon” (6:24). After the rich man walked away “sorrowful,” Jesus told his disciples that it’s “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (19:22, 24). Paul says that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). Why? “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (6:7). Paul then warns that “they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare,” since “the love of money is the root of all evil” (6:9-10). People can “err from the faith” through covetousness (6:10). So why do we try to marry God and money, faith and wealth?

I think the problem starts with Abraham, the spiritual father of believers in Jesus Christ (Romans 4:16). In the hall of faith, he’s listed three times as doing something “by faith” (Hebrews 11:8-9, 17). Other believers called Abraham the “friend of God” (James 2:23; cf 2 Chronicles 20:7, Isaiah 41:8), a man with a “faithful” heart (Nehemiah 9:8). So we flip to Genesis to learn more about this man, and what do we find? Unlike the antediluvian patriarchs, Abraham was rich!

The Bible says that Abraham was “very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). He left Haran with many material possessions (12:5). Abraham later separated from his nephew Lot because their “substance was great, so that they could not dwell together” (13:6). After Sarah died, Abraham bought her burial plot for “four hundred shekels of silver” (23:16). When he first met Rebekah, the future wife of Isaac, Abraham’s servant presented her with jewelry weighing more than “ten shekels … of gold” (24:22). He later gave her “jewels of silver, jewels of gold, and raiment” (24:53). Where did this wealth come from? The faithful servant said, “The Lord hath blessed my master greatly. … He hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold,” plus servants, camels, and donkeys (24:35). Divine blessing is why Abraham refused gifts from the king of Sodom, so that he couldn’t say, “I have made Abram rich” (14:23).

“Father” Abraham wasn’t just wealthy. He also knew “how to win friends and influence people.” During his sojourn in Egypt, Pharaoh gave Abraham sheep, oxen, donkeys, servants, and camels (Genesis 12:16). Before he left Gerar, King Abimelech gave Abraham sheep, oxen, servants, and “a thousand pieces of silver” (20:14, 16). He also told him to “dwell where it pleaseth thee” (20:15). After Sarah died, the sons of Heth called Abraham “a mighty prince among us,” so they offered him “the choice of our sepulchers” (23:6). What was the source of this power? It certainly wasn’t riches! “The Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house” because he’d taken Sarah (12:17). After Abimelech took Sarah, God “closed up all the wombs of” his house (20:18). He then told the king that Abraham was a “prophet” and would pray for him (20:7, 17).

sodom-and-gomorrah-lotAbraham also had power with God. After learning that God would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham asked God to spare them if he could find ten righteous people (Genesis 18:20-32). God didn’t find ten. He still spared Lot and his family because he “remembered Abraham” (19:12-17, 21-22, 29). Where did this power come from? Money talks, but God doesn’t listen! He chose Abraham and made a covenant with him, and not because he was rich (12:1-3, 17:2-14). God just knew what was in his heart.

Abraham knew how to win battles too. When his nephew Lot was taken captive in a war between nine kings, Abraham “went into the enemy’s camp.” He rescued Lot with “three hundred and eighteen … trained servants, born in his own house” (Genesis 14:14). Abraham also “brought back all the goods” and people that the enemy had taken (14:16). After the battle, King Melchizedek of Salem blessed Abraham, serving him and his men with bread and wine (14:18-20). Where did this victory come from? Melchizedek, the “priest of the most high God,” said, “Blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand” (14:18, 20).

Silver, gold, livestock, servants, power with God and men: we ask ourselves, “If this man of faith can be rich, then why not I?” Yet we forget one thing. Abraham couldn’t purchase a place in paradise, so he was as spiritually poor as the man without a farthing. He couldn’t fight God or persuade him to give him this treasure either. God had to give Abraham faith to “look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10, 13-16). Nor could Abraham buy from or fight others for the land he walked on. He had to believe God’s promise to bless him and “make of [him] a great nation” and then forsake his country, family, and father’s house for “a land that I will show thee” (Genesis 12:1-2). Abraham also had to trust God that descendants from his own body would inherit this land (12:7, 13:14-17, 15:4-21, 17:8, 24:7). The only proof of his faith, while he still lived, was a single burial plot in Hebron (23:16-20).

abraham-faith-hebrewsAbraham could have owned every coin and animal in the world. He could have befriended every king and killed all his enemies too. Abraham still wouldn’t have been rewarded with a mansion in heaven or an inheritance for his descendants, and he knew it. Without faith, he would have “gain[ed] the whole world and los[t] his own soul” (Matthew 16:26). What man trusts God when he has everything this world can offer? He believes that there’s more to life than what his eyes can see. Abraham had such faith (Hebrews 11:8-16). Where did he get it? God freely gave it to him. No wonder God said, “I am … thy exceeding great reward” (15:1).

Abraham “died in faith, not having received the promises,” because he sought “a better country” in heaven (Hebrews 11:13-14, 16). So he was taken to upper Sheol. When Lazarus died, he “was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22). All who died in faith before the atoning death of Christ were carried here. God rewarded Abraham with this honor in upper Sheol only because of his faith. After Jesus purchased the saints’ redemption, everyone in upper Sheol was taken to heaven to live with him for eternity (Luke 23:43, Ephesians 4:8-10).

If you’re rich like Abraham, then don’t trust your money to save you. It can be taken from you instantly (Luke 12:20). Don’t expect your wealth, or the giving of it, to reward you with a place in heaven either. Jesus Christ purchased your redemption, so grace is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). It can’t be “purchased with money” (Acts 8:20). All you must do is repent and believe. If you’re poor, however, then don’t fret. You don’t need Abraham’s riches to have his faith. Paul says that “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:9).

Listen to these songs on Abraham, the father of our faith. I pray that you’ll be blessed.

[1] All Scripture references are from the King James Version (KJV). Some archaic spellings have been modernized.


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