“Thus, I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times” (Genesis 31:41).

Wealthy American businessmen in the nineteenth century who used exploitative practices to build fortunes were called “robber barons.” They worked to control natural resources, pressure government officials, pay low wages, and squash competition by acquiring their competitors and thus creating monopolies. Some of the more common names in this group include John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller.

Greedy businessmen today continue to take selfish risks. Sanjay Kumar, the former CEO of Computer Associates, was charged with defrauding his own company and then obstructing justice when he was caught. His practices included backdating contracts and adding a week to accounting periods, known as the “35-day month.” Kumar’s crimes were staggering. He and his accomplices cheated Computer Associates out of $2.2 billion over a period of several years. Prior to his sentencing, Kumar confessed, “I know that I was wrong and there’s no excuse for my conduct.”

Laban, the father-in-law of Jacob, might be considered a robber baron. His greed drove him to treat his son-in-law unfairly on multiple occasions. When Jacob finally packed up his family and flocks and left, Laban pursued and confronted him as someone who had been wronged. But his charges were false, and Jacob rebuked his father-in-law. Jacob’s years of generous labour were above and beyond criticism. The two finally agreed to part ways.

The Bible warns, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10). We can learn from Laban’s poor example that, “He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live” (Proverbs 15:27).

Lord, I choose to be content with what I have because I know that You will never leave me nor forsake me.

For Further Study: Genesis 31:22–42; Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5


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