“WISDOM OF LIVING (28): RIGHTS”                     By Pastor YAU

Text: Genesis 13:8-13; Ref. 13:1-7, 14-18.                       June 12, 2005

 

INTRODUCTION:

       1) America: a nation of rights: America is a nation full of rights. From the early days, founding fathers were very much aware of their rights and that of others. Therefore they included “the right to life, the right to freedom and the right to pursue happiness” into the Constitution. Later on, there were “The Bills of Rights” that prescribed more rights of the people. Many people claim their Constitutional rights in doing things they want, such as same sex marriage, abortion on demand and teen abortion. Other rights were also promoted like Human Rights, rights to abnormal life style, right to believe in anything including Satanism, right to promote violence against the nation or class of people, right to take illegal drugs, right for under age abortion without parent notice or consent and even right to die. Many of the rights were added, interpreted, upheld and supported by civil right advocates and activist judges, in many cases, in direct contradiction of the rights and beliefs of the great majority of the people and the well being of the society.

       2) The Bible and rights: While many of the rights are legitimate and necessary to provide and protect human dignity and peace of the society, but insistence and abusive use of personal rights only create chaos and destruction of moral fabrics of the common good. There are many teachings in the Bible on the subject of rights directly or indirectly. Let us see what the Bible has to say about rights in general and how the rights of the people in the above quoted Scripture reference were practiced in particular.

 

BIBLICAL GUIDELINES ON RIGHTS:

1)    All rights come from God: The Bible holds God as the originator and creator of all the things in the universe and the people on this planet earth, therefore only God has the right, the authority and the power to exercise rights. All the rights man claims to have are on the mercy of God and must be in accordance with His purposes and will. Any claim of right without God or against God’s nature and commands are destined to chaos and destruction. Man needs to surrender his right or wishes when it is in contradiction with and to the right of God.

2)    Rights are given, not claimed:  Since God is the sole authority of all things and all people, all the rights, be it governmental or civil, corporate or individual, were given by God to serve His purpose both for His glory and the well being of His creation. The chain of command begins from God to human authority and to individual rights. Rights and privileges were given to each level of the society to promote and preserve order and harmony. When individuals or groups claim or demand rights against the will of God or the norm of the society, chaos and strive will arise and suffering will follow.

3)    Boundaries of rights and privileges:  (In 4 directions)

a)    Personal rights stop when it violates the Devine commands of God as recorded in the Bible.

b)    Personal rights stop when it violates the well being of others or the common good of the community

c)    Personal rights stop when it inflicts injury or damage to the well being of the individual who claims his rights.

d)    Personal rights stop when it promotes immorality, violence or unethical acts against Divine revelation and social norms.

 

TIME TO SURRENDER RIGHTS: Too many people want to claim their rights, the more the better. Very few people, if any, are willing to surrender their rights. But the Bible asks that we ought to be ready to surrender our rights for higher causes. After all, Jesus surrendered His right to life in order to save sinners of the world. Read the passage used for today’s message to see how Abraham surrendered his rights and the blessed results of his doing so.

1)    Abraham had the rights from God: It was Abraham’s good heart to bring Lot with him. (Gen. 12:4-5) When God called Abraham to Canaan and promised him His blessings God didn’t include Lot in the package. It was the good heart of Abraham toward the son of his deceased brother that brought Lot into the picture and later the blessings God bestowed on them. Lot owed his uncle all he had, his future and his share of the blessing. But Abraham chose to waive his right.

2)    Abraham had the right from culture: (Luke 12:13) It was Abraham, the uncle, who had the right to choose first. Almost in all ancient cultures, be it Jewish, Chinese or others, it was the seniors, the fathers, uncles, older brothers who had the right to choose how inheritance would be distributed for themselves and others in the family. Since Abraham was the uncle, he had the first to choose whatever he wanted and left whatever was there for Lot. But Abraham chose to waive his right.

3)    Abraham chose peace over rights:  This is an important attitude we all need to have: peace over rights. Even though he had all the right to have the best of land and everything else may result from it, Abraham put peace in the family over his right to chose. Peace in the family and loved ones are always more precious than anything we may own. Our love for people, especially those who are close to us, should be on the high priority list when it comes to material benefits or rights. No material possession, large or small, is worthy of the fight over our rights.

4)    Abraham trusted God over land: (13:14-18) Prior to the story in this chapter, the Bible did not give us any description of where and how much the Promised Land was going to be. God only asked Abraham to “go to the land I will show you.” (12:1)Any land God led him to would be that Promised Land: be it the plains, the mountains, the highland or the heartland, wherever God drew the line that is the Promised Land. People with faith should trust God more than any material possessions, land or money, houses or gold or anything else. When you have God, you have it all.

 

RIGHT TO CHOOSE AND ITS CONSEQUENCE: (13:10-13) One may give credit to Lot in the process he chose the land. He and Abraham and most of the people at his time were cattle farmers. The plains of Jordan with all the meadows and water supplies were ideal for his business. So he chose the best of the land. What he didn’t know was the consequence of his choice.

1)   Lot’s choice separated him from Abraham and God:  You may argue that it was Abraham’s idea that they should be separated because of the fights amount their servants. (13:8) Fights between their servants were of selfish purposes: meadows and water for their herds. If Lot had the right insight and correct attitude, he should have settled all fights because of the importance of staying with Abraham. This is not just because they were family, but because Abraham was the recipient of God’s blessings. To move away from Abraham is to move away from the blessings of God.

2)   Lot’s choice set the path of his fall: (13:12b) Lot’s choice of the plains was good for his business but very bad for his spiritual life. His living among the people of the plain, adapting to their beliefs and life style and eventually moving into Sodom, a city “full of wickedness and great sin.” (13:13) Lot did not moved into Sodom immediately after he separated from Abraham. But he pitched his tents toward, on the direction of, Sodom. He moved step by step toward sin and wickedness. When you choose the direction toward the world, you will end up in Sodom and Sodom means sin and destruction. It is a matter of time.

3)   Lot’s choice brought great pain and shame: (Gen.19:22-38) First, he brought total loss and destruction to his family. He lost all he had accumulated from those years. He lost his family and wife. He lost the name he tried so hard to build in the city. Finally he lost all the blessings of God. Second, his name has become a symbol of foolishness and worldly pursuit. Then the children he had with his own daughters in shameful incestuous acts became enemies of Israel for 1,000s of years. No one could count all the pain and tears caused by his wrong choices.

        All of us need to remember: every time you exercise the right to choose, to make your decision as you right, you are responsible to the consequence of your right and choice. You always have to pay a price for the right you choose to have. 

 

GENERAL GUIDELINES ON RIGHTS: While we all need certain rights to live a decent life, we also need to exercise our rights in ways that promote mutual benefits and harmony with others. We live in a society that puts so much emphasis on the right of individuals at the expense of the rights of others, some guidelines are necessary for rights to be placed in proper perspective:

1)    Rights should bring glory to God: (1 Corinth. 10:31) This is the first guideline we have to follow when we practice our rights. Causing harm to the name and glory of God and His church because of your rights is in direct contradiction to Christian life principles.

2)    Rights should not do harm to others. (1 Corinth.10:23) Causing others harm or suffering, especially our brothers and sister in the Lord, because of our rights is a big no, no. (1 Corinth. 9:9) We are all integral parts of the body of Christ. We all suffer when one part of the body suffers. (12:26)

3)    Surrender rights for higher cause: Paul surrendered his right to receive support, (9:13-15) to get married, (9:5) to receive honor (1 Corinth. 9:1-3), to eat meat (8:13) for one purpose: the gospel of Christ will not be hindered. So many Christians have hindered others from being saved because of their selfish insistence of rights.

4)    Choose the highest right: (Phil. 3:4-8) As we progress in our spiritual growth, we will, like Paul, surrender more and more of our personal rights in exchange to have more and more of Christ in our lives. Paul’s goal in his life was to surrender all of his rights so that Christ will be exalted more fully in him. (Phil. 1:20) This should be the goal of all Christians.

 

CONCLUSION:

       The most important right: To become children of God.

There is one more right no one can afford not to have and that is “the right to be call children of God.” (John 1:12) When we confess our sins ask God to forgive us, accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are given the right to become children of God. God has promised His children all the blessings on earth and in heaven if we are saved by the blood of His Son Jesus Christ and our faith in Him.