The Humility of Abraham

Genesis 13:12-18

Today we see how God rewards Abraham’s obedience, faithfulness, and humility. Instead of seeking to retain the best regions for himself, Abraham had parted peaceably from his nephew Lot. The Fathers teach us that it is especially Abraham’s humility that makes him favoured by God. In the words of Saint John Chrysostom,

Sacred Scripture wants to teach us the extent of the reimbursement the patriarch was accorded for such humility from the loving God…. You ceded the beautiful region to your nephew on account of your great restraint and thus gave evidence of your eminent humility and showed such concern for peace as to put up with anything for the sake of preventing any rivalry coming between you—accept from me a generous reward.

In promising land and descendants to Abraham, God is in effect giving him all things. As Saint Ambrose of Milan writes, ‘when God promises that he will give all of this to Abraham, what else is he saying than that the wise and faithful man possesses all things, lacks nothing at all.’ Saint John Chrysostom tells us that Abraham lived ‘like a stranger or pilgrim’ – and yet he possessed all things. Abraham’s ‘concern was to give evidence of his God-fearing attitude in his actions.’

As we journey through Lent, the patriarch Abraham presents us with a model and a challenge. For, by not clinging to anything and by emptying himself before God, he was in effect given everything.

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A Reading from the Book of Genesis 13:12-18:
Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, while Lot dwelt among the cities of the valley and moved his tent as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.

The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see I will give to you and to your descendants for ever. I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your descendants also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” So Abram moved his tent, and came and dwelt by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron; and there he built an altar to the LORD.