And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me. (Genesis 29:32)
The great flaw of the house of Jacob was their ability to weaponize their blessings and aim them at each other and their enemies. Jacob was a great negotiator, but that strength also made him a great manipulator and that aspect of his character influenced the character of his household. That should serve as a somber warning to us as husbands and fathers. Our characters can set the tone of our homes. Character set on glorifying God will bless our homes. Character set on glorifying ourselves can destroy them.
In Jacob’s house, Rachel and Leah, along with their maids Bilhah and Zilpah were blessed with many children (Genesis 30). If you’ve ever had children, you know what a blessing they can be. You have also probably known parents who have used their children to glorify themselves. They live vicariously through them or they use their children’s achievements as badges of honor for themselves. This attitude was rife in the household of Jacob. Rachel and Leah were not shy about their motives in having children. Each time one of them had a child, the names they chose for them thinly disguised their jealousy toward one another regarding Jacob’s affections. The problems inherent with polygamy aside, I can only imagine the infighting those jealousies engendered. Surely, as their boys grew, they learned the stories behind their names and sensed the tension between their respective birth mothers. In fact, we don’t really have to imagine the strife. Scripture shows it plainly in the life of Joseph. To put it mildly, the house of Jacob was a dysfunctional family on steroids.
Why does God give us such ugly details about the house of Jacob? Because He wants us to see the ugly details of our own lives. Have you ever caught yourself jealous or envious of the blessings of others? “Boy! I wish I had so-and-so’s talents!” “Look at the house (or the car, or the boat, or the life) so-and-so has! Why can’t I have that?” Have you ever bought something to impress others in your circle? Have you ever gotten upset when something you did for the church wasn’t acknowledged in the church bulletin? These are all ways we weaponize our blessings. Instead of rejoicing in the blessings of others, we’re jealous of them. Instead of using our gifts and talents to the glory of God, we want to use those gifts to the glory of ourselves.
Blessings are not an end in themselves and they are not a means to an end. The blessings God gives us are things we get to enjoy as a byproduct of our obedience to God. God intends for us to rejoice in the blessings He gives us and to share them with others, not weaponize them and use them as tools for self-advancement.
When James asked, “From whence come wars and fightings among you” (James 4:1a), he wasn’t speaking to nations. He was speaking to church people. What was going on amongst the people he was addressing? They were weaponizing their blessings. Instead of turning their blessings toward each other, they were aiming them against each other.
God shows us the ugly details of homes like the house of Jacob because He wants us to understand how churches and families can be destroyed by weaponized blessings.