“And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the Salt Sea). Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and in the thirteenth year they rebelled. In the fourteenth year Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him came and attacked the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim, the Zuzim in Ham, the Emim in Shaveh Kiriathaim, and the Horites in their mountain of Seir, as far as El Paran, which is by the wilderness. Then they turned back and came to En Mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and attacked all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites who dwelt in Hazezon Tamar. And the king of Sodom, the king of Gomorrah, the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar) went out and joined together in battle in the Valley of Siddim against Chedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of nations, Amraphel king of Shinar, and Arioch king of Ellasar—four kings against five. Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits; and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled; some fell there, and the remainder fled to the mountains. Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went their way. They also took Lot, Abram’s brother’s son who dwelt in Sodom, and his goods, and departed. Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram. Now when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his three hundred and eighteen trained servants who were born in his own house, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. He divided his forces against them by night, and he and his servants attacked them and pursued them as far as Hobah, which is north of Damascus. So he brought back all the goods, and also brought back his brother Lot and his goods, as well as the women and the people. And the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said:
‘Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.’
And he gave him a tithe of all. Now the king of Sodom said to Abram, ‘Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.’ But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich’—except only what the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men who went with me: Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.’”
War Broke Out among the Kings in the Land of Canaan
When Abraham entered Canaan there already were many kings in that land. In these ancient times there were many tribal kings, and the land of Canaan was inhabited by several tribes. Like the United States, various ethnic groups were cohabiting in that land. And amongst these various kings, Chedorlaomer was the most powerful king. So the other kings paid him tributes as his subjects, but a number of these tribes joined together and rebelled against Chedorlaomer, the king of Elam. War broke out amongst the kings in the land of Canaan as a result of this.
Drawn into this war, Abraham’s nephew Lot was captured as a prisoner of war. His wife and children were also taken captive, and he was deprived of all his possessions. When the king of Sodom went into that war, Lot could not avoid but being drawn into the war as he was living in the land of Sodom. Because he was a subject of Sodom, he had to go into this war with its king, and when they lost this war, he and his entire family were taken captive.
The Bible writes that when Abraham heard about this, he took 318 men who were raised in his house to pursue these captors. He divided his forces into two and attacked the enemy troops from both sides, destroyed them in the battle, and recovered all that had been lost, including his nephew, his wife, children and his possessions, and all the other captives as well. From this passage we can see how people at that time were living in small tribes. When we look at how Abraham was able to defeat these captors with just 318 men and recover what had been lost, we can see how small the tribes were back then, and how they were all living in close proximity.
Even Though Lot Was Rescued by Abraham, Lot Left Him Again
Lot’s life was spared thanks to his uncle Abraham. Yet despite this, Lot returned to the land of Sodom. Even though he was saved by Abraham, he still went back to that land of Sodom; this shows just how foolish he was. Fools do not know that they are in fact fools. This was an excellent opportunity for Lot to leave that land of sin, and if he had followed Abraham, he could have preserved his salvation and lived in prosperity doing righteous work, but he rejected this opportunity. It is written, “Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, for he dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and brother of Aner; and they were allies with Abram” (Genesis 14:13). The descendants of a certain people were allies with Abraham and they were protected by him. Because they were subjects of Abraham, they were able to share God’s blessings that Abraham received. Lot however was unable to experience this even though he received the remission of his sins.
When Abraham returned after rescuing Lot and his family, the Bible tells us that, “The king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley), after his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him. Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.” Melchizedek the king of Salem then blessed Abraham, and gave glory to God, and received a tithe from Abraham. This shows us that there already was a priest. Referring to this priest named Melchizedek, the Book of Hebrews writes that Melchizedek the priest had no human genealogy (Hebrews 7:3), so this Melchizedek refers to none other than Jesus Christ. There will be another opportunity to address this issue later on.
Abraham Knew the Ulterior Motive of the King of Sodom
The king of Sodom said to Abraham, “Give me the people, and take the goods for yourself.” When reflecting upon this, we can see that the king of Sodom was a very wicked man. He was living with Lot. Abraham had rescued his nephew Lot and all the Sodomites that had been taken captive, and he had also recovered all their goods. But the king of Sodom, after waiting said, “Give me the persons, and take the goods for yourself.” He said this because he could attack Abraham later on if he had enough manpower. Therefore, we can describe him not only as an evil man but also as a very cunning one.
If the king of Sodom drew everyone to himself and attacked Abraham, he could become the most powerful king in Canaan. It was because Abraham defeated Chedorlaomer who had prevailed over all other kings. The king of Sodom was trying to play both ends against the middle. By taking all the people for himself and giving only the goods to Abraham, the king of Sodom could mobilize his forces against Abraham at some point in the future and defeat him.
It is written here that Abraham declined this offer which was made by the king of Sodom, lest he hear people saying that the king of Sodom made him rich. He only set a portion aside for the 318 men who had gone to war with him. Other than this, he refused to accept even a sandal strap. He said to the king of Sodom, “I will not live on this land thanks to your generosity, nor will I live as your subject.”
Abraham Was a Man of Great Faith
This event shows what a man of great faith Abraham really was. With so much plunder, most people would have gladly taken it when offered. Abraham could have become the wealthiest man in the land of Canaan. Together with his allied kings, Chedorlaomer had defeated all the other kings and plundered their wealth, and so Abraham could have taken the spoils of that war to make himself extremely rich. All these goods were offered to Abraham, but he refused to accept them, saying to the king of Sodom that he would not accept even a sandal strap from him. When we look at how Abraham had no interest at all in the spoils of this war, we can see just how spiritual he was.
Abraham was a man of faith and a spiritual person. In other words, he was interested in the soul rather than material possessions. He was not a man swayed by wealth. Wealth did not dictate his life, nor did it make him happy. He thought of material possessions only as a gift from God, and he did not make it to be everything of his life, nor did he worship wealth as his god. For most people it is extremely difficult to be so indifferent to wealth. It’s next to impossible unless one is a spiritual person. Seeing is wanting. For most people, once they lay their eyes on something, they become greedy and take it for themselves. They make it theirs no matter what. And when their possessions increase, they end up worshiping these possessions as their gods. Abraham, however never allowed this to happen. In complete contrast to such people, he was not interested in wealth nor was he greedy.
Even though God had blessed Abraham and given him so much wealth, and with so many servants, and so much material prosperity, Abraham never stopped calling on the name of the Lord God, nor did he ever stop following Him. We can see here just how broadminded Abraham was, how he was truly a man of faith, how his eyes were set solely on God, and how faithfully he followed the Word of God.
The scheme of the king of Sodom was completely undermined when Abraham declined his offer. However, Abraham’s nephew Lot went to the king of Sodom. He is such a fool. Even though Abraham was so powerful and strong that the king of Sodom feared him, and he was so prosperous that he had no less than 318 servants raised in his house, Lot returned to the king of Sodom instead of following his uncle. Abraham by then was so powerful that he had hundreds of trained servants ready for war. And when a war did break out, he divided his forces into two as exercised before and easily defeated all the enemies.
Abraham Did Not Follow Mammon
Like this, Abraham was not someone unprepared. We can confirm this from the fact that he had prepared an elite force of 318 men. Chedorlaomer was a brave king who had defeated the allied armies of no less than four tribes, and although it was because of God that Abraham prevailed over him, this victory also came because he had prepared his well-trained forces.
It’s very important for us grasp here that Abraham did not follow Mammon. Those who follow after Mammon cannot do any spiritual work. Those who are completely beholden by materialism have an extremely narrow sight. In time, their bodies and minds will be completely destroyed by Mammon. This has happened to many people. The so-called Evangelicals have also turned into denominationalists buried under Mammon, and they have built their own wealth. The Lord has given us the riches of the world so that we would manage them as His stewards and use them for the gospel, and not to worship it. God has given us everything so that we would rule over all creation and prosper, but material prosperity cannot be our god. One’s pursuit of Mammon can only result into one’s own destruction.
How about Lot then? In complete contrast to Abraham, Lot followed Mammon. The king of Sodom must have distributed the spoils of the war. That’s why Lot followed him, lured by these spoils. Would this carnal man have followed the king of Sodom if this king did not have anything? No, Lot nevertheless returned to the land of Sodom because that’s where his wealth was. Like this, Abraham and Lot were completely different people. Even though both men were righteous men who had received the remission of their sins, one loved Mammon so much that he devoted himself to accumulating even more wealth, while the other man did not take possession of wealth even when he had a chance to do so.
God blesses those who follow His Word and whose faith transcends everything in this world, and God bestows them with material and spiritual wealth, both these blessings of the fertility of this earth and the blessings of Heaven. It is these types of people who can become forefathers of faith. Those who believe in the Lord God as their God and follow only this God—it is such people whom God blesses.
It is written, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). We are prone to be attracted by the wealth of this world, and this will indeed happen to us if we mismanage our priorities. Everyone has a greedy heart, and unless one controls it, they will end up pursuing only wealth. However, money is something that we should manage; it is not something that can protect us or bless us. It can never do this. If you are rich, you should spend your riches for God; you should never tremble over money and put it up high on the pedestal to be worshipped as your god.
If You Follow Mammon, Your Life of Faith Will Be Over
Even for the people of faith, the pursuit of Mammon results into their destruction. Those who seek after their own glory, fame and wealth may appear to follow God for a while, but in the end, they ultimately give up their lives of faith. They end up like Lot, who followed God only for a short while and gave up eventually.
Most people do not follow God if they should become millionaires. In my seminary years, most classmates said that they would not carry on with the Lord’s work if God gave them a lot of riches. Many of them said that they would rather serve God as elders. They said they were at the seminary because they had no other options. Many pastors would give up their ministry immediately if they suddenly became rich.
I cannot stand to see money sitting by idly. Whenever I have money, I think about where to spend it. In other words, whenever I have any money I always think about spending it for the gospel. If you don’t spend money and save it, it will obviously multiply. It’s quite exciting to watch your savings grow. It surely would be exciting to watch your savings grow from $10,000 to $100,000 and from $100,000 to $500,000.
However, even if you have a million dollars, what use is it? Even if you have $10 million, what good does this money do for you? Is this really a large sum? Several hundred thousand dollars may seem like a lot of money, but it really is not that much. Once you spend that money, you will see that it does not mean much. Besides, can money protect us? You can’t do anything with money alone. What’s important is for what and in whose service your money is spent. Money needs a good owner to be of any use. Only then can it be spent for a good cause rather than just sitting in a safe place. Like everything else, money must also be spent well.
The Bible Says That the Love of Money Is the Root of All Evil
If you seek after only money, you can never follow after God. Yet it’s in human nature to seek after and to find comfort in money. If one lives in a big house, has a nice car, and runs a prosperous business, he ends up becoming complacent. Even among those who claim to be working for the gospel, there are shallow people who follow after money. Instead of doing God’s work, they are busy with their own businesses. There is a certain pastor in Gangneung who lives in a huge and magnificent mansion. But his congregation has to gather in a tiny church building for worship service. And there are only a few churches in his denomination. Even though he has been ministering there for 20 years, there are only three affiliated churches. What’s more, there are hardly any ministers in these churches. This shows us just how this pastor in question does not work to expand the Kingdom of God nor invests any resources into this endeavor. He is happy so long as his own house and church prosper. When he holds a spiritual retreat, he holds it in his own church. He does this because he is greedy.
I once invited this pastor to dinner when he visited Chuncheon, and I showed him our church at his request. Our church at that time was very busy preparing to publish some books. Seeing this, the pastor told me that he was also planning to launch a literature ministry, and he asked me if I would like to come under him. Of course, there is no hierarchy when it comes to preaching the Word of God, and so it was more than possible for me to serve the Lord under this pastor. But I said to him first, “Please give me a tape of your sermon preaching the gospel. I will listen to your sermon and then decide whether I can work with you or not. I never judge anyone based on outside appearance. So please give me a tape of one of your sermons.” I have never to this day received any tape from him.
We published our first book before this pastor did, and then we followed it up with another publication. By the time several books were published by us, this pastor had also published one book, and when we published a monthly magazine, he also began to publish a monthly magazine. To top it off, he then wrote another book on the origins of the mythology of Dangun, the founding father of the Korean nation. I found out that he was a gifted writer. This pastor has a huge garden at his home. Whereas we rent our place of worship, he even had the title to his church building. At issue here is not how much money this pastor had or spent; no matter how much money is spent, it is well spent if it is used for God’s benefit. The problem was that this pastor did not use his money for the extension of God’s Kingdom. Like this pastor, anyone who follows after money cannot do God’s work. Those who cherish money more than God cannot spend their wealth for the Lord. They only spend it on themselves.
Wealth Is There to Be Spent for the Work of God
This year we began publishing our monthly gospel newspapers, and over $20,000 were spent on this project. If by spending this money the gospel is spread in Korea, then this money is spent for a worthwhile cause. Whenever I see anyone who has some money, I ask him to spend this money to spread the gospel. If we can lead even just one person to receive the remission of their sins by spending $2,000 a month, then this money is worth investing. Even if we have to sell all our worldly possessions, the gospel is still worthy of our investment.
Our wealth is for God. It is certainly not just for our own flesh that we have it. It’s there to be spent for God. We are living together with God. It is written, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We eat and drink for the righteous work of God.
The pastor that I just told you about has also begun to publish a Christian newspaper. But all that he is trying to do is just make himself famous and rich. How do I know this? I know this because he does not share his gospel newspaper for free. He just circulates a few copies in his own church and then puts the rest of it into Christian bookstores for them to sell it for him. That’s how greedy people behave.
If we have a million dollars, we must invest it all for the gospel. If we have $10 million, we must invest it all for the gospel. If we have $100 million, we must invest it all for the gospel. Whatever money we have, each and every cent God gives us, we must invest it all in His work. Is there anywhere in this world to store our riches? As long as we have a roof over our heads, a place to preach the gospel, and food to feed ourselves, the rest must be invested for the gospel. The saints should invest whatever is left over making a living, and our ministers and workers should invest all their material possessions for the gospel. This is the right disposition to have.
In today’s Scripture passage we see that Lot was only interested in amassing his own wealth. At the beginning, he accumulated wealth by raising a flock, but God burnt it all by fire on the last day. Because of his greed, Lot was unable to preach the gospel. Nor did he have any army. But Abraham’s army grew into thousands.
Seeing these things, we can see what kind of man Abraham was. It’s revealed here that God gave blessings through Abraham, and He was able to work through Abraham. One’s character is determined depending on how he uses his wealth. One who uses his wealth wisely is a true worker of God, and it is by looking at how one spends his wealth that we can see clearly if this person is living for the gospel of God or not. By looking at how one spends his money, we can see what kind of person he is.
The next trip to Russia will cost us around $7,000. But I was told that it will take another month to complete the Russian edition of our first book. It’s very frustrating to see how slow the work is going. It should have been completed in a week, but it’s been dragging on not for seven weeks or even seven months, but for seven years! This delay shows us clearly that some of our workers are not fully devoted to the gospel work, not caring what happens to God’s work. When asked to do something, such people pretend to work instead of diligently carrying out that assigned job. If they were really motivated, they could have finished the job in a week, but instead they have been dragging it on for seven years. If this goes on, Jesus will return to judge before the book is even out.
As mentioned, it will cost us about $7,000 to go to Russia, preach the gospel, and share our gospel books with the people there. But considering everything it’s all bearable because there is much spiritual fruit to harvest, many people in Moscow will receive the remission of sins thanks to our labor. Even if only one person receives the remission of their sins for every thousand dollars we spend, it will be well worth it. Not a cent is wasted. If we really think about it, the cost of our mission trip is actually very low. Our last trip to Bangladesh cost us $3,500, and our mission trip to China cost us merely $1,000. When we finally go to Russia, I would like to hold a great revival meeting. Since we already have an interpreter ready, and we can always gather enough people to our revival meeting through our co-workers in Russia, this dream is still possible.
Money is there to be spent for God and His gospel. An old proverb says, “Narrow gathered, widely spent.” Like this saying, money is hard-earned, but when it is spent, it must be spent on a noble and worthwhile cause. The fact that Abraham was never greedy is something that we should all emulate. Abraham is our father of faith. However, if he had been greedy and were only interested in accumulating his own wealth, then he would have inevitably settled down in one place in the land of Canaan. Weighed down by his riches, he would not have gone anywhere else even when God told him to go.
But Abraham did not do this. He did not take even a sandal strap from the king of Sodom. He did not do this because he did not want the next generation to say that the king of Sodom made him rich. Abraham refused the offer of this king of Sodom to demonstrate that it was God who protected him, blessed him, and made him rich. The people of faith reject the words of the people of this world. Abraham, like this rejected the words of the king of Sodom.
In serving the Lord, you and I must always think about where to spend our money rather than how we can make it. Before anything else, we must first think about how we can spend our money for a good cause. And we must think about how we should follow the Word first.
In reality, we do need a lot of money. But I believe that if we work more, God will fill our needs many times over. I hope and pray that God will give all of us the same faith that Abraham had.