Agency — Saying “No” to Evil…
Monica and I have seven daughters. As dear as they are to us as our sons, they are more precious than jewels, and of greater worth than all of the riches of earth. I believe this is how our Heavenly Father feels about each and every one of us, and would that He could protect us in all things, but that we need to learn many things of our own experience. While we as parents caution and place signs of warning in our teachings to protect our little ones, it ultimately relies upon their agency to choose which way to go and to whom they should give trust. It is the same with our Lord. He teaches us, and gives caution, but allows our agency in choosing which way to go, and who to follow.
I was struck when reading Genesis 14 of the story of Abram (Abraham), and the rescue of his nephew Lot, and his household, following their capture by wicked men. As the account goes, Lot and his extended family were caught up in the conflict between warring kings, wicked men who were not followers of God nor His kingdom. They were carried away captive. When Abraham learned of this he gathered up his own trained men and went against those who imprisoned Lot. Abraham defeated his enemies and freed his brother’s son, to the inadvertent benefit of Bera the king of Sodom, who was by all accounts a very wicked man unto himself.
Abraham’s character and commitment to be upright and stand with God, using his agency — saying “No” to evil, was illustrated in how he responded to this king of men.
As a result of Abraham’s successful efforts to free his nephew, the king of Sodom ended up offering him the spoils of the battle as reward. Abraham’s character and commitment to be upright and stand with God, using his agency — saying “No” to evil, was illustrated in how he responded to this king of men. “And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, ‘Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself.’ And Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘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 14:21-23).
Long has it been said, “To the victors belong the spoils.” It appears that even in that long ago day that was the custom. Nevertheless, Abraham had wisdom to know that you do not want to owe wicked men any allegiance or debt. Abraham was a man of personal wealth as he was blessed of God, and he had no intention to add to that wealth under the debt of someone who was evil. He also had the moral courage to say “no” in the face of powerful earthly forces.
In speaking with my daughters, I have taught them that they are under no obligation to go on a date with any man, for courtesy’s sake or by some seeming debt owed for gift or other act seen as a possible kindness or valor. If a man is not good, then we cannot afford to reward evil with goodness at the risk of all that is most dear. We should always strive for kindness, but never betray right for fear of disappointing evil. No seemingly kind word, no extravagant gift, no costly meal, nor agenda driven compliment should ever be rewarded with an unholy allegiance, the gift of virtue lost, value degraded, and dignity destroyed.
If a man is not good, then we cannot afford to reward evil with goodness at the risk of all that is most dear. We should always strive for kindness, but never betray right for fear of disappointing evil.
Daughters, as sons, should always keep allegiances free of entanglement with those who would rob away from us our agency and opportunity to have true joy in this life and happiness in the presence of Heavenly Father in the life to come.
Abraham was a wise man who understood from whence true trust should come. In place of funding indebtedness to a worldly and wicked king, he gave homage to Jehovah, the true and living God, by paying tithes to the great high priest Melchizedek, king of Salem. And for his goodness he was blessed of God by the hand of His servant, “Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand” (Genesis 14:19-20).
As my father taught me, “there are some people with whom you just don’t want to do business.” The same should be considered and heeded in all aspects of life, from currying favor to consenting to a date, and all that happens with it. We should not look to offend, but we should do nothing that is evil in order to avoid offense, increase wealth, impress a suitor, or advance societal or political position. We should do as Abraham and stand firmly righteous, even in the face of a king.
May we walk as Abraham, uprightly before the Lord, owing no evil man, nor falling for the false persuasions of lying tongues, that we may be blessed of God and free to follow Him in all things. Agency is one of the greatest gifts from God to man. May we not surrender it on concern for how we might be perceived in the acts of doing right. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.