Abraham’s reputation amongst the Canaanites in which he dwelt was bulletproof.
He was fabulously wealthy, commanded his own personal army (that he used to rescue Lot), and had a regular audience with kings.
It’s no surprise then that when it came time to bury his beloved wife Sarah, the people of the land told him to choose from the choicest of graves. “None of us will refuse you,” they told him (Genesis 23:6).
Abraham chose the cave of Machpelah that was owned by a man named Ephron. Ephron heard it and insisted that Abraham have it — for free.
That wasn’t the deal that Abraham had in mind, though. He counter-offered Ephron’s generous offer by saying that he would “pay full price.”
Even for a man like Abraham, who could have anything he wanted, he insisted on paying his share.
If he wasn’t above the rules, why should we?
David Also Paid Full Price
The whole scene is very reminiscent of an event in David’s life.
When David sinned during the Census in 2 Samuel 24, God gave him three choices for punishment. David wisely chose the punishment that left his fate in God’s hands, saying “the mercies of the Lord are great.”
After he paid the penalty for his sin, David then had to offer a sacrifice for his sins. The place he chose was the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and offered to pay full price.
His response to David was the same that Ephron made to Abraham: “You’re a man of honor. Let me give you the land.” In his mind, it would honor him to give land to the King for such an important moment.
David wouldn’t take it for free, either. Instead, he replied back with a statement that is as timeless as it is piercing: “I will pay full price, for I will not offer to the Lord that which doesn’t cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24).
There’s a lesson in that for you and me. When we ask God for forgiveness or show our appreciation for Him or worship Him, does it “cost us” anything? Are we sacrificing something important to us because it honors Him (time, money, comfort, etc)?
David refused to accept the land and make the sacrifice based on different grounds from Abraham, but the point is still the same. For moments like offering a sacrifice to God or burying your wife, things that come for free don’t hold as much value. Losing Sarah hurt; Abraham wouldn’t dishonor that moment by taking a handout.
The Price of Honor
I think this is one of those moments where the reality of something hits a little different than the emotion of it.
Nobody would’ve cared one bit if Abraham had taken Ephron’s grave. He insisted on it. Abraham was honorable. It honored the community.
But it didn’t matter how something looked, it mattered the motive.
Our motives matter too. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Paul makes the argument that “if I give my body to be burned, but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.”
Why, Paul? Why does it not “profit you anything”? Isn’t the end result the same?
It does in the sense that goal was accomplished, but at the same time, it doesn’t, because it wasn’t done with the right motive.
We can sing songs in church and read Scripture in private and pray prayers all day, but if we don’t have an attachment to those moments — if our heart isn’t it and it doesn’t affect us in any way — what have we really accomplished? Was it really worship?
Or were we just going through the motions?