I wrote this post 4 years ago, on the eve of my daughter's 16th birthday. Tomorrow she turns 20, and what I said then is even more true today.
Tomorrow my daughter turns 16. For the last couple of hours I’ve been looking at her picture and feeling all wet in the eyes.
Which made me think about Eliezer and Abraham.
Genesis 15: 1-3 says that Eliezer was the chief servant in Abraham’s household.
The household of a Biblical patriarch was a lot like a family owned corporation. For example, in the house of Abraham, the patriarch had more servants (employees) than actual relatives by blood or marriage.
Yet the entire household depended on one another. Together they weathered storms and famine. Together, they fought marauders and rival tribes. Together they would either prosper or die in the Canaanite frontier. And when God gave Abraham the sign of circumcision in Genesis 17, EVERY male in Abraham’s house became a Jew---- the hard way.
But you could say that was all just good business.
You have to be nice to the boss. You have to work together. If the company (household) fails then everybody’s out of a job. In Old Testament days, being “out of a job” meant death or enslavement, so doing a good job was simple self-interest. Genuine love wasn’t necessarily part of the job description.
But sometimes it was.
Before Abraham and Sarah had children, Eliezer was the designated heir of Abraham’s entire fortune. So when Isaac, the promised son, came along Eliezer had no objective economic reason to love the boy.
But he did.
We know that Eliezer CARED ABOUT Isaac because Eliezer INVESTED IN Isaac.
In Genesis 25, Abraham sent his chief servant to research and negotiate a marriage-merger for his son. This was a lot of trouble. There was no match.com to sign onto, no Instagram full of selfies to peruse, not even a postal system to send letters asking, “Hey, do you know any nice single women around Isaac’s age?”
Eliezer had to take ten camels and basically wander around the sparsely populated Canaanite and Mesopotamian wilderness looking for “the one.”
And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there.”…Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, for all his master’s goods were in his hand. (Genesis 25: 8, 10)
At this point Abraham was old and Eliezer had power of attorney over the whole family business. All he had to do was “not find” the right woman or ship Isaac off to Syria and he could have taken over the family.
But he didn’t.
Instead, he risked his time, the peril of his own safety (wandering around the dessert with a caravan of provisions at his age), and his personal self-interest; and invested it all in his boss’s child.
Then he said, “O Lord God of my master Abraham, please give me success this day, and show kindness to my master Abraham. (Genesis 25: 12)
In my career as an educator and pastor I’ve worked with, for, and over a lot of people. Especially on faculties when I was a department chair or administrator (boss), teachers had an economic self-interest in being nice to me because I performed their evaluations and managed their personnel files.
They didn’t have to really love me. They didn’t have to really love my house, my family.
But they have.
My daughter turns 16 tomorrow. When I posted the announcement online and looked at the range of people who commented and liked I realized how expansive my household has really been.
Over the last 20 years, teachers, counselor, pastors, co-workers, colleagues, church members, and employees have invested in their time, their gifts, their favor, and their love in me, my wife, and our children.
They have gone far, far out of their way to protect my children when I could not be there to protect them.
They have prayed for my family. They have looked out for my wife. They have sought our good when our good wouldn’t do them any good. They helped me and mine when undermining me would have been easy and profitable.
I know what you did.
You loved my house when you didn’t have to.
Thank you all.
---Anderson T. Graves II is a writer, community organizer and consultant for education, ministry, and rural leadership development.
Rev. Anderson T. Graves II is pastor of Miles Chapel CME Church in Fairfield, Alabama; executive director of the Substance Abuse Youth Networking Organization (SAYNO); and director of rural leadership development for the National Institute for Human Development (NIHD).
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