Read Genesis 23
Have you ever enjoyed a meal at a restaurant with someone, and when the check comes, a friendly “argument” ensues over who will pay? You certainly do not want your friend to pay for your meal, rather insisting that you pay for his. It is a sign of respect to offer to pay for each other’s food. We see a similar situation play out in Genesis 23, as Abraham requests a burial place for his wife Sarah when she died.
The sons of Heth offer Abraham “the choicest of our burial places” (Genesis 23:6). Abraham requests the cave of Machpelah, which belongs to Ephron, and insists on paying the full price. Ephron and Abraham go back and forth a bit, Ephron insisting that Abraham take the land, and Abraham insisting on paying for it. In the end, Abraham gives Ephron 400 shekels of silver and buries Sarah “in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan” (Genesis 23:19).
Why was Abraham, who described himself as “a foreigner and a visitor among you” (Genesis 23:4), treated with such respect? No doubt his character had been on display before these men for many years. They told him that he was “a mighty prince among us” (Genesis 23:6). He was treated with respect because he treated them with respect. He did not expect special treatment; he did not feel entitled to anything. He did not demand that they change their customs to accommodate him. Rather, he attempted to live at peace with them.
Is that not how we should treat our fellow man today? The apostle Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). Our character, which defines how we conduct ourselves, should demand respect of all who are around us—even non-Christians. In fact, elders in the church “must have a good testimony among those who are outside” (1 Timothy 3:7). A person who has put on Christ in baptism must live lives of integrity.
Will you always receive the respect you deserve as a moral person attempting to live according to God’s Word? No, but another person’s action does not change what the Word says. We must give as much respect to others as we can muster; we must be at peace “as much as depends on you” (Romans 12:18).