As Abram (later Abraham) and Lot lived and prospered in the land of Canaan, we are told in Genesis 13:1-9 that the land could no longer support the flocks of Abram and Lot together. This situation required a difficult decision– the type of decision that many face during their lives. Lot was given the opportunity to decide where he wanted to live. We can read of his decision in Genesis 13:10-12:
And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the Plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou goest unto Zoar. So Lot chose him all the Plain of the Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the Plain, and moved his tent as far as Sodom.
In economic terms, Lot made a good decision. He chose the land that would provide him the best chance for success– the green land that provided great areas for pasture. There was only one problem with this land, as revealed in Genesis 13:13:
Now the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners against the LORD exceedingly.
The land was good; its inhabitants, however, left much to be desired. Lot’s decision would cost him greatly! Let us now consider the consequences of Lot’s decision to live in the midst of an exceedingly wicked people.
Pitching his tents toward Sodom cost Lot dearly twice. Lot was not the only one to see that the land was good; it was also under the hand of kings from the east. These kings fought against the kings of the area of Sodom, defeated them, and Lot was taken captive (Genesis 14:1-12). Had it not been for Abram and his forces, Lot would have lost everything and would have been a slave back in Mesopotamia (Genesis 14:13-16)! Later, when Lot received divine visitors as guests, he felt compelled to offer the Sodomites his own daughters to defile rather than the visitors (Genesis 19:1-8). The next day, Lot fled from Sodom as God rained fire and brimstone upon the city, and his wife turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back (cf. Genesis 19:17-29). While his wife made the decision herself to look back and disobey God, had Lot never been in Sodom in the first place, the temptation would not have been present!
Lot’s ability to raise good children was rather compromised. Lot’s daughters were married to certain men of the city; while we do not know how righteous they were, we know that there were fewer than ten in the whole city, and therefore it is doubtful that they were good influences (cf. Genesis 18:31-33). Furthermore, the fact that afterward they both made their father drunk so as to have children by him does not speak well of them (Genesis 19:30-38). Since Sodom was so saturated with sin, should we be surprised to consider that Lot’s daughters were easily infected by it?
While we cannot know what was going through Lot’s mind while he was in the cave after the destruction of Sodom, we can wonder whether he was reflecting back on that fateful day recorded in Genesis 13 when he made his decision to pitch his tents toward Sodom. If he had to do it all over again, what choice would he have made?
We can certainly sympathize with Lot’s plight, for we ourselves live in a sinful world and have been called upon to live in the midst of sinners (1 John 2:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:9-10). It is not as if we have the opportunity to separate ourselves entirely from sinners; how can we be lights in darkness if we are only around the light (cf. Matthew 5:13-16)?
Nevertheless, many times we do have the opportunity to make decisions as to where we will live, and we ought to consider Lot’s example when we do. After all, Abraham also lived as a sojourner in the midst of people who also were sinners, and yet he did not suffer nearly as much as Lot! The land was perhaps not as good in the rest of Canaan, but the people were not as exceedingly sinful and respected Abraham (cf. Genesis 23:3-6).
We may be called upon to choose between two habitations. One may represent a great financial opportunity, and one will easily be able to satisfy physical needs and to support the family. What if that place has no congregation of brethren of like precious faith? With whom will you associate? How will you teach your children righteousness? There may be another habitation, where one will perhaps not have the best opportunity, but one can associate with good brethren and at least gain the respect of the rest of the community. Is not the benefit to the family far more worthwhile than a bit more money?
Lot shows that it is possible to live righteously in the midst of wicked sinners. His sufferings, however, ought to show us that we need to diligently consider how our environment affects our family and their relationships with God. Let us take care not to pitch our tents toward Sodom to our own destruction!
Ethan R. Longhenry