Wordplay File #23: What’s Your Lot in Life?

by Tad Lindley

Did you ever have to make a decision about who gets something when there’s not enough for everybody? When I was a kid, we used to use a system called Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe. Some professional sports flip a coin. The internet has random name picking programs. My dad used to let us “draw straws”. He’d cut 3 piece of grass, or 3 strips of paper, or 3 strings (there were 3 kids). One of them would be shorter than the others. Then he would hide everything, but the ends in his hands and we would pick. The one with the shorter “straw” won. In the Bible they “cast lots” to make decisions.

What is a “lot”?

In the Bible they used a system of dice rolling that in the King James version is referred to as “casting lots”. You see this for example when there were multiple soldiers at the foot of the cross and Jesus had been stripped naked. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. (Matthew 27:35 NIV) Some guys went home winners and some went home losers. And so it is that the expression, “It’s just my lot in life,” has entered the English language. It is a way of saying that we just randomly ended up with a bad knee or somebody else is always a better hunter than us, it is just their “lot in life”. Typically people use the expression, “my lot in life” to explain why they don’t have it as well off as other people.

When your lot is not really your lot

Sometimes what we perceive as our “lot” in life is not just an accident, not just a random set of circumstances. Sometimes what we perceive as our “lot” in life is really the result of a decision that we made that has come back to haunt us. We might try to explain it away as a random misfortune, but in reality it is our own fault. This is exactly what happened to a man named Abraham in the Bible. You see Abraham had a nephew named Lot (locally spelled Lott). And Lot became Abraham’s “lot in life”.

A clean break with the past

Abraham (who in those days was going by the name Abram) was from a people that worshipped statues. He came from a city called Ur. And one day this statue-worshipping man heard the voice of God. Here’s the Bible account, The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1 NLT) Notice that God has specifically asked him to 1. leave his home, 2. leave his relatives, and 3. leave his immediate family. He was successful in accomplishing the first command. He left home, but he took his nephew, Lot, with him (Genesis 12:4). He was supposed to make a clean break from the past, but he compromised in one area, his nephew, Lot.

Abraham’s Lot cost him a lot

Abraham and Lot left the land of their raising and eventually ended up in what is today called Israel. It was there that the problems began. The scriptures record that the shepherds of Lot began to argue with the shepherds of Abraham, because there was not enough grass to support all of the animals (Genesis 13:6-7). As a result, Abraham ended up with the inferior land, and Lot took what was better (13:10-11).

Later on, Lot was captured by an invading army. Abraham had to expend his time and his men to rescue Lot (Genesis 14). Ultimately, after the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters got him intoxicated and raped him (Genesis 19:30-38). The children that were born to them became the forefathers of the Ammonites and the Moabites, great nations that stood against the nation of Israel. This was Abraham’s “lot in life”.

What is your Lot in life?

What might look like a series of random misfortunes in the life of Abraham actually were the result of a premeditated choice on his part to disobey the word of God. He deliberately hung on to something from his past that God had specifically directed him not to, his nephew Lot. How about you? Are you hanging on to something in your life that is destined to be a great burden to both you and your family in the future? Are you allowing something sinful to persist in your life, telling yourself, “It’s OK, God understands.”

If there is a Lot in your life, the time to let go is now. Whether it is alcohol or drug use, or a relationship where you are held hostage by threats of suicide, or perhaps you have a gambling habit and you tell yourself, “It’s only bingo.” These things become the Lot’s in our lives and what starts out small and innocent, if it is disobedient to God, will have long term consequences farther on in life.

What’s your lot in life?

For those who enjoy the study of words, please realize that this play on words only works in English. The original Hebrew word for the name, Lot, sounds the same in English, but the Old Testament word for “lot” sounds very different, as does the original Greek word in the New Testament.

Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

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