Money. Wealth. Increase. These can be polarising words in Christian circles. But the truth is, God does want His people to prosper, He wants them to have enough and to be able to be a blessing to their families and the people around them. Jacob's story shows us how God can give us creative strategies to release the resources we need.
We get mixed messages about wealth. If you have plenty, that’s a mark of God’s favour. If you are having it tough, avoid a money focus at all costs! Here, in the second half of Genesis 30, God’s Word addresses that tension.
This part of Jacob’s story follows hard on the heels of his family and responsibilities growing out of hand. Suddenly, he has lots of mouths to feed, his expenses are climbing fast, and his employer continually trims his wages rather than giving him a much-needed raise (Genesis 31:7).
With the significant material success of his father and grandfather snapping at his heels, he works as an employee shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks. Everything benefits Laban, and Jacob is left living hand to mouth, with a singular question on his mind: When will I provide for my own house? (Genesis 30:30).
When we, too, take stock, and then exclaim, What about me? we ask a legitimate and biblical question. When the status-quo is broken and oppressive, it is okay to be dissatisfied.
There was a time when I was in a fairly dark place, struggling to provide for our family. It drove me to praying a Hannah-like prayer: “Lord, if you will take away my shame around a hopeless career, I will give it all back to you!” What came next was an extraordinary redemption of that area of my life. So extreme was God’s intervention that I was left worshipping, unable to take any credit for what was undeniably an act of God.
Here in Genesis, God will take credit for sorting out Jacob’s financial woes, as well. In fact, we only need to wait for the next chapter; it is in God’s character to deliver swift justice to the needy.
It all starts when Jacob makes an observation (vv.37-39). From within the circumstances that bind him, he is provided a key to his release when he observes a specific set of conditions that greatly increases the flock’s propensity to breed. God gives him a secret means of fruitfulness!
I imagine his elation as hope dawns on his frustrated mind. He finds the best and strongest animals in the flock and sets them in position to breed more, hoping to both increase the overall condition of the animals under his care and to increase their numbers. However, he uncovers two show-stoppers. Firstly, if the flock numbers increase out of hand, he won’t have helped himself at all; Laban will prosper. Secondly, his stock numbers are improving but at the detriment of their overall physical appearance. The culture of his time valued unblemished colour, but speckled and striped sheep were popping up left and right, seemingly out of nowhere. Back to square one!
Then he has a divinely inspired idea (vv.40-42). One that is a challenge to follow him in as we live in a generation particularly fixated on Insta-worthiness and outward appearance.
What if he didn’t care what everyone else thought? What if he prized what others most rejected? The animals were still strong and healthy, and it made no difference to the taste of their meat.
As Jacob affirms the revelation and adapts until he is completely in line with the fullness of God’s will for him, we find him making a deal with Laban: “You take the animals with solid colour that everyone prefers, and I’ll take the ones you don’t want with marks and blemishes.” His key is now fitted into a lock, and the Lord is able to prosper him.
It all begins with getting real about the things in our lives that aren’t right. God has answers, and we can walk out of difficulty if we ignore the pressure to be shaped by our culture and instead remain open to out-of-the-box solutions.
What in your life isn’t working? Carve out some time to strategise about these things with the Holy Spirit. What keys and insights is He showing you?