Many people in our world today are “takers” rather than “givers.” It is natural for us to think of ourselves first, to demand our rights, strive to own possessions, and to seek wealth and recognition. But one of the wealthiest and most important men in human history did not even own the land that he pitched his tent on, and he died before ever seeing the fulfillment of his greatest ambitions. He was a giver rather than a taker.
Abraham occupies a unique place in Scripture. The Apostle James noted that Abraham “was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23). Abraham is the father of many nations, being the common ancestor of the Israelites, the Ishmaelites, the Midianites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, and the Edomites. The Apostle Paul called him “the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). Abraham is highly regarded by millions of adherents of three worldwide religions: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
One of the most astonishing series of promises ever given from God to man were bestowed to Abraham. When the Lord called Abraham to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees, God promised him: “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:2–3).
This promise to Abraham is generally recognized by Bible scholars as embracing three promises—of the land, the seed, and the blessing.
In Genesis Chapter 13, after Lot had chosen the well-watered plains of Sodom and left Abraham with the rugged hill country around Hebron, the Lord told Abraham, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” (verses 14–17). Even though Abraham never physically possessed even the rocky ground where he pitched his tent, one day his descendants would come back and occupy this very ground in fulfillment of God’s literal promise.
In Genesis Chapter 17, when the Lord promised a son to Abraham, He said: “As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee” (verses 4–7). In the Old Testament, the “seed of Abraham” was confined to his physical descendants, but the Apostle Paul describes in Galatians 3:29 how those who believe in Christ are the true spiritual seed of Abraham.
In Genesis Chapter 22, when Abraham laid his son, Isaac, upon the altar, the Lord added these words of blessing: “That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (verses 17–18). The blessing is ultimately and finally fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the blessed One Who brings life and peace to the world in fulfillment of the Messianic promise.
Although Abraham received these glorious promises in faith, he never lived to see any of them completely fulfilled. The writer of Hebrews defined faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Such was Abraham’s remarkable faith.
Abraham is presented as an example of this abiding faith in Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” A few verses later, Hebrews 11:13 records of Abraham and all those who believed with him that “all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
While Abraham believed God would bestow His promises to him, in reality, the man did not even own the ground that he pitched his tent upon. Abraham understood that he owned nothing himself, but he was a steward of what God had entrusted him for future generations. So careful was Abraham to possess only what God granted to him! Although God had granted Abraham great wealth and prosperity, God’s servant showed himself to be a giver, not a taker. He even offered his nephew Lot first choice of pastures and land to settle when both men’s herds could not be sustained on the same land.
When Lot and his possessions were carried away by an invasion from the east, Abraham and 318 of his servants, armed for battle, pursued the foreign invaders over 120 miles, driving them an additional 50 miles in a dramatic military raid that resulted in a decisive victory. Afterward, Abraham was offered the victor’s choice of the spoils of war. But he refused to take even the plunder of the battlefield, saying, “I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich” (Genesis 14:22–23).
On this same occasion Abraham gave to Melchizedek, “king of Salem, priest of the most high God” (Hebrews 7:1–2), the tithes of all that he possessed—a recognition that everything Abraham had or hoped to have was a gift from the One Who is “possessor of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22). Abraham knew that, although he owned nothing, God owned everything and He would fulfill all His promises in His own time.
The Apostle Paul wrote of Abraham: “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:20–22).
When his wife Sarah died, Abraham did not even own the ground in which to bury his wife. Abraham bought a small parcel of land at Hebron that included the cave of Machpelah. When the owner offered to give Abraham the ground, he refused, saying, “I will give thee money for the field” (Genesis 23:13).
Although Abraham possessed nothing except a small parcel of ground purchased for a burial plot, he knew that God’s promise was faithful when the Lord said, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). Abraham’s faith in a giving God enabled him to be a giver rather than a taker.