The Separating Power of Possessions

The Separating Power of Possessions

October 19, 2012
Written by Daniel Hazard

Excerpt from Genesis 36:1-8

"Their possessions were too great for them to dwell together."

Reflection by Martin B. Copenhaver

Jacob and Esau, the twin brothers whose tussles began in their mother's womb, eventually reconciled enough to be able to settle in the same neighborhood in Canaan.  They prospered, but eventually became the victim of their own success.  The land was not able to support the herds of cattle of both brothers, so Esau had to move away.

This was a matter of environmental sustainability, but also something more.  As the author of Genesis put it, "Their possessions were too great for them to dwell together."  This is not an ancient problem.  Today—whether it's in Canaan or New Canaan—prosperity has a way of separating us.  The fastest growing segment of the housing market is exclusive gated communities, whose chief attraction is the way they separate people.  If you have enough money to buy sugar in large quantities, you are less likely to have to go next door to borrow a cup from a neighbor.  When you have your own car, you never meet your neighbor at the bus stop.

Our prosperity can be too great for us truly to dwell with one another.  There is another way of putting it:  Sometimes the more wealth we have, the more impoverished our lives can become.  Is there a way you can think of to keep your possessions from coming between you and your neighbor?


Dear God, everything I have is a gift from you.  May I express my thanks by never letting my possessions create distance between me and those around me.  Amen.

About the Author
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.

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