Genesis 23: The Power of a Good Reputation

“And the sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying to him, ‘Hear us, my lord: You are a mighty prince among us; bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us will withhold from you his burial place, that you may bury your dead.’” (Genesis 23:6)

The follower of God set his or her mind to do what is right for one simple reason: it is right. It doing right, we are pleasing to the Lord.

There are two types of worldly people with which we will interact on a regular basis. One type will hate us (John 15:18); at best they will ridicule us (1 Peter 4:4). They dislike what we stand for, and the moral standards by which we try to live. It doesn’t matter how kind or caring we try to be; they oppose light and those who try to follow light. Jesus reminded us in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

But, there’s another type of people we encounter on our journey through this world: people who appreciate others of principle and character. People who don’t share our exact values, but appreciate those who live by values. Genesis 23 tells of the death of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Abraham went to the Hittites, the inhabitants of this region of Canaan, seeking to buy a place to rest her body. The Hittites, who owed Abraham nothing, responded with great respect and admiration in 23:6. They referred to Abraham as a “mighty prince.” The English Standard Version translates this as “a prince of God.” What follows in 23:7-15 is a beautiful back and forth between Abraham and people who obviously respected him—Abraham asking to buy the land, the Hitties wanting to give the land to him. Why would they want to do such a thing? Because of his character and the way he lived.

What’s the take away for us today? When we strive to live a godly life, people will notice. We never know how our influence will be accepted. Consequently, our behavior toward others is not to gain good favor (else we may change if we don’t get the results we want), but to be a “light” to the world (Matthew 5:14-16) and please God first (Matthew 6:33; 22:37-38). Other’s approval should come from an observance of our character which has been shaped by God. Some won’t appreciate the way we live because in living the way we do, we tell them that we disagree with the way they live. However, some people will appreciate us, respect us and treat us kindly as a result. In the final analysis, how they treat us isn’t important. How we live is.

Let’s apply this to our lives.