The Equation of Life: Genesis 28:20

Chapter 28, Verse 20 – 22:

And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way
that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou
shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.

It is worth reiterating that Jacob was well cared for by God in his entire life story, therefore in the following writing, it is not again our aim to criticize Jacob as a person, but this time only the means by which his words were stressed out in the passage. His statement as written in its original tongue may not have similar expression as its modern English rendition has but such is not the case we are pointing out here. The way his words were expressed still applies to a great extent to the way we too, today, speak of God when we call on Him or of other people when we require some things from them.

From reading these verses, straight away my attention was trapped by the words “IF” and “THEN” in 20 and 21: “IF God will be with me, and will keep me… and will give me… THEN shall the LORD be my God.”

What a very familiar statement indeed for this expression is what we mostly use whenever we are in desperate need, as in the following instances: IF only God will cure me of my illness, THEN I will praise Him with all the might that is left of my body; IF only God will let me win the lottery, I will contribute a portion of the prize for the poor; IF only my parents will provide me the amount of money I need, THEN will I give them the respect they demand from me; IF only my employer will increase my salary, THEN I will strive to work harder.

You see, Jacob’s statement is not only relevant to the way we practice our faith today, but also on how we deal with other people, with our families, and with our jobs. We always haggle over matters to feel even with them before we provide for their requests, or before we do our vital obligations, instead of naturally being keen beforehand.

In the English language, we understand that the use of the word IF in a sentence means the statement is conditional. Going back to verse 20, what power do we have as helpless creatures to “demand” the Creator to prove Himself as our feeder and provider of material things, only so we can grant Him our faith? Must our stomachs be full, and our paths be marked, and our bodies be wrapped with clothes at all times before we reimburse God with our simple faithfulness? Why do we easily get disheartened when bad luck falls upon us and why do we keep blaming God for causing our misfortunes? Must we be able to accumulate first a cartload of bread before we offer a piece to the hungry? Must we obtain something of use from our parents at all times before we may continuously grant them the love and respect they deserve? Must we find out first that our children have lost their paths of virtue before we bestow them the guidance they ought to receive? Must our works be recognized first before we further improve our performance? Must we wait to lose something before we realize its value, such as losing the love of God before we entitle Him of our souls?

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