We’re Not as Good as We Think, Even When We Are (Genesis 31:36-37)

Genesis 31:36-37


36 Then Jacob became angry and berated Laban. Jacob said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37 For you have felt through all my goods; what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two.”


Jeremiah 17:9-10

9 The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?

10 “I the Lord search the heart

and test the mind,

to give every man according to his ways,

according to the fruit of his deeds.”


            When Jacob decided to leave Laban’s service, he pretty much had to take off and run.  Jacob knew that, should he try to leave in an open and honest fashion, Laban, who had proved to be untrustworthy himself, might attempt to do Jacob harm.  So, Jacob sneaks away, which is pretty consistent with his modus operandi.


            As Jacob takes off, Rachel decides to sneak into her father’s house and swipe his household idols.  (Sadly for Laban, Dora was not there to shout out, “Swiper no swiping!”)  Jacob and his family run, and Laban, once he learns what has happened, pursues.


            Once the inevitable confrontation between Jacob and Laban occurs, Laban accuses Jacob of stealing his gods.  Jacob, who knows nothing about Rachel’s pilfering, demands that Laban search through his belongings.  Laban searches, but is unable to come up with the false gods because they are under Rachel’s behind. 


            Once Laban’s search proves fruitless, Jacob, feeling righteously indignant, begins to berate Laban for his accusation.  We see those words and claims of innocence from Jacob in the Genesis Scripture above.  It’s that wonderful picture of indignation that we so often see in politicians when they point at one another and say, “How dare you accuse me of such a thing.  I am offended at the very notion.”


            Now, here is what has my attention.  Jacob was wrong.  His family had stolen from Laban; he just wasn’t aware of it.  The irony of the situation is hard to bear.  Were Laban given the knowledge that we the readers have, Laban could have pointed to Rachel’s saddle bags and proved Jacob to be harboring the crook. 



            How many times have you felt indignant at someone who accused you of something?  How many times have you felt wonderfully vindicated when those accusations against you prove false?  Doesn’t’ it make you feel smug when someone calls you guilty, and  then you are able to show them that you are innocent? 


            Perhaps a lesson from Jacob is in order here.  Jacob thought he was innocent.  In many ways, he was.  In many ways, he had been wronged by Laban.  But, his guilt was still there, hidden in a place he did not even know to look.  Jacob was not as innocent as he thought, nor was he as innocent as Laban’s investigation showed.


            Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are desperately sick, unimaginably wicked.  We do not even know the depths of our own depravity.  Only God, the holy and omniscient One, has the ability to look into the depths of our souls and see the corruption that lies beneath the surface.  Only God knows how truly not innocent we all are.


            So, the next time that you find yourself vindicated against the accusations of those who accuse you falsely, perhaps you can learn from Jacob and from Jeremiah.  We are not nearly as innocent as we portray ourselves.  We are guilty, even in places that we cannot see.  Only the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ makes us able to stand before God.  Without him, all of our righteousness is filthy (Isa 64:6).  


            The goal here is not to make you feel bad about yourself.  Rather, the goal is for us all to grasp the fact that we must not be smug, even when it seems that we have been wrongly accused or persecuted.  Our hearts are evil deep down.  


            The truth of our wickedness should cause us to be so incredibly grateful to Jesus.  He takes us, wicked hearts and all, and he totally, perfectly, 100% cleanses us before himself.  Jesus gives us his perfect righteousness, and makes us able to live eternally in the presence of our God.  The more we grasp our own evil, even the hidden parts, the more grateful we will be to Jesus who cleanses us, even in our deepest and most hidden parts.