Weekly Bible Devotional
“Our Money Story: Restore”
November 22, 2020
The following reflections are from “A Sanctified Art.”
As we have practiced remembering, releasing, and reimagining, we conclude our series by focusing on restoration. Ultimately, practicing faithful stewardship heals us as individuals and helps us restore right relationship with one another. In Genesis 33, Jacob and Esau experience a surprising reconciliation after years of strife and estrangement. In the final chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples and fills their empty fishing nets. Even after death, Jesus restores our hope and provides an abundant feast.
Scriptures for Sunday: Genesis 33:1-17
Now Jacob looked up and saw Esau coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two maids. 2 He put the maids with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. 3 He himself went on ahead of them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near his brother.
4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. 5 When Esau looked up and saw the women and children, he said,
“Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the maids drew near, they and their children, and bowed down; 7 Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down; and finally Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. 8 Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor with my lord.” 9 But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 Jacob said, “No, please; if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God –since you have received me with such favor. 11 Please accept my gift that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have everything I want.” So he urged him, and he took it.
12 Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go alongside you.” 13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; and if they are overdriven for one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”
15 So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “Why should my lord be so kind to me?” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house, and made booths for his cattle; therefore the place is called Succoth.
Notes on the Text:
This story requires a good bit of context to shed light on the complexities (and baggage) within Esau and Jacob’s relationship. Jacob has just wrestled with a stranger (an angel) and now, in preparation to meet his brother, is likely wrestling inwardly with his feelings about his relationship to Esau, their father, and his own sense of worth. Esau’s radical forgiveness is significant given the lengths to which he has been cheated. Jacob steals Esau’s birthright and disadvantages not just Esau but the generations that are to follow. Strikingly, Jacob sends servants/livestock ahead of him to appease his brother. Esau, released from burning resentment says: “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.”
This text invites us to think about the role of restoration in our lives. While salvation is not ours to attain, ultimately stewardship calls for an examination of our hearts as we investigate our own experiences, fears, desires, and passions with money. In this vulnerable and difficult act, we are asked to embody the work of restoration. The work of restoration is a response of grace. Yet, ultimately, good stewardship practices restore healthy relationships between people, the earth, and God. Lives are transformed in the giving of gifts to change and repair a broken world –in giving our gifts we find that we are being reconciled to God.
“God is always working to build community and often intervenes so that we will forgive and be forgiven, and relationships can be restored. No matter how much he repents of his past, Jacob may not be accepted and embraced by his brother. In this situation, though, God has been working in Esau’s life. The previously defeated brother has not become bitter. He has not wasted his life, ruminating about how things might have been different had his brother not tricked their father and stolen his birthright. Instead, Esau has continued with his life and created wealth in his own right. Perhaps he has also made peace with God for his mistake of so easily trading his inheritance for a bowl of soup. At any rate, Esau gladly welcomes his brother Jacob. The simple lesson here is that I must avoid bitterness (no matter how well deserved), offer forgiveness, and seek reconciliation if I want to live in community.” ~Julie Rains
(Esau forgives Jacob)
Inspired by Genesis 33:1-17
by Lisle Gwynn Garrity
Jacob and Esau shared a womb but soon grew to be enemies. Torn apart first by Jacob’s hunger for status (he buys Esau’s birthright) and then by Jacob’s deceit (he steals Esau’s inheritance), their relationship is deeply fractured by money. They become estranged –living in different lands with different families, cultures, and customs. Jacob steers clear of Esau, fearing Esau will kill him, until the time comes to leave his father-in-law, Laban, and return home to Canaan. But to do this, Jacob must pass through Esau’s territory in Mount Seir. He must come face-to-face with the brother he has wronged.
In this image, I’ve imagined the moment they meet –Esau winged with an army of men, and Jacob bowing, offering up half of his wealth and household. Esau’s men hover behind him, ready for the signal to charge. Instead, they watch Esau run to Jacob, embracing him with tears and warmth.
Somehow, over the years, Esau’s rage has softened. He has found a way to make peace with the past. Esau looks beyond Jacob at his children and maids–at what Jacob offers to him as reparation for what he stole. “I have enough, my brother,” Esau replies. Esau has learned what Jacob struggled to know from the start -that constant striving for more leads only to suffering.
In this encounter, Jacob finally bows before Esau, owning up to his wrongs and giving up his power. And yet, after this stunning moment of reconnection and forgiveness, Jacob journeys away from Esau to Succoth. They cannot continue side-by-side. Perhaps there are too many wounds, too much harm done.
Forgiveness does not cancel out pain. Restoration does not erase wounds. Restoration invites us to return what we have wrongfully taken from others, to return to God’s hopes for us. In restoration, we return to enough.
Prompts for Reflection:
Though Jacob and Esau were twin brothers, they lived as enemies. Jacob scarred their relationship by deceiving their father and stealing Esau’s inheritance. In your money story, are there relationships where you have felt a bit like Esau –deceived, cheated, or wronged? Are there relationships where you have felt a bit like Jacob–the one who has caused harm?
When Esau sees Jacob bow before him, he is moved to tears. What do you imagine led Esau to this moment of reconciliation? What is required for true reconciliation to occur?
How do practices of stewardship invite us into restoration and right relationship with one another?
You have always been in the business of beginning again with us,
of restoration and return.
First you breathed life into dust.
Then you guided brother back to brother after years apart.
You sent prophets when the people lost their way.
You fed the hungry and healed the sick.
You let the little children come to you.
You forgave us from the cross,
And then you returned to remind us of our call.
You have always been in the work of restoration–
Of seeing us, claiming us, loving us, and inviting us to return to you.
Today we come to you in prayer, asking that once more, you would restore us —
All of all of us.
Restore our narratives about who we are to truth.
Restore our actions toward one another to love.
Restore our dreams for this world to your dream for us. Amen.