“Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain." And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (1 Chronicles 4:9-10).
As the writer of the book of first Chronicles lists those among the descendants of Judah, the son of Israel, he describes one whose name was Jabez. His mother called his name “Jabez” which means, “He will cause pain”. She did this because in much pain she bore him (1 Chronicles 4:9). She attached this label to him thinking that he would not only cause pain to her during childbirth, but also he would bring pain to others as well! Her choice for his name certainly did not help his self-esteem!
However, Jabez did not wish to live up to his name. He did not want to be known as one who caused pain to others. Instead, he desired to be more “honorable” (1 Chronicles 4:9). He prays to God and petitions God to bless him, enlarge his territory, for God’s hand to be with him, and for God to keep him from evil. He makes these requests of God because as he says, his fervent desire is, “that I may not cause pain!” (1 Chronicles 4:10).
As I consider his prayer, I ask myself, “Do I strive to follow his example and not cause pain to others?” Do you know of people who always seem to be in the midst of a lot of “drama”. In other words they always seem to be upset and something or someone. Instead of love, joy and peace filling their lives, their lives all full of hate, anger, and fighting. Because of this not only do they cause a lot of pain in their own lives, but they cause a lot of pain to the lives of others as well as they engage in gossip, backbiting, and complaining.
The church at Corinth was filled with many who had given into the temptation to have a divisive spirit and who caused pain to others. The apostle Paul pleaded with them to rise above this and to strive to have unity among themselves: “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
On the other hand, Jesus spoke to his disciples about how they should not cause pain to others. Christ said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). King David, wrote, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
The prayer of Jabez teaches me that whatever circumstances I may find myself, I do not have to act in a way that causes pain to others. Jabez found himself born to a woman who expected he was going to cause pain to others. Jabez could have resigned himself to fulfilling her expectations of him since she had so named him. Instead, he chose to be “more honorable” and petitioned God to guide his life so he would not cause pain to others. Today, I rejoice that when others around me engage in gossip, backbiting, and complaining and cause pain to others, God has given me the power to choose to not engage in such divisive activity. Like Jabez, I will strive to “not cause pain”!
“Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way” (Romans 14:13).