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Some people want to control others. This reminds me of the Bible story in Genesis 27 where Jacob stole Esau’s blessing. We’re not going to focus on Jacob. Instead, we’re looking at his mother, Rebekah. That’s why this is under the heading of control, not greed.

Isaac and Rebekah were unhappy when Esau married two women, both from other cultures. Apparently Isaac got over it, because in Chapter 27, verse two, he tells Esau to go hunting, catch and cook something good and I’ll give you your blessing. In Biblical times, a father’s blessing was significant and symbolized passing God’s blessing to a chosen heir.

Well, Rebekah was having none of that. She conspired with Jacob to trick Issac into giving the blessing to Jacob. She said “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the Lord before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it.  Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

Jacob’s primary concern at that time was his physical dissimilarity from Esau. Jacob was smooth-skinned and Esau was hairy, so even though Issac’s eyesight was poor, Jacob feared the plot would be discovered. Rebekah had a fix for this too. She covered Jacob’s skin with goatskin to make him seem hairy. And as unlikely as it sounds, the plan worked. Rebekah wanted to control the situation and control who received Isaac’s blessing.

A desire for control, like any other emotion, is not always right or wrong. Control as a motivator is often mixed with fear, a feeling that the actor knows best or some other emotion, but some people want control for it’s own sake. If the desire for control comes from a desire to protect others or to act altruistically, it can be good. But some people crave power simply because they want to be in charge. In those cases it can be dangerous. I think most people would judge Rebekah’s use of control, which was mixed with deceit, as wrong. After all, God remains God and He didn’t need Rebekah’s “help” to work His plans.

Let’s think about control several ways. First, when health care advance directives became lawful, the first one people used was a living will. Of course, a living will is unable to adapt to changing medical technology so if there was another potential treatment, the living will – which does nothing but express a patient’s choice regarding end-of-life treatment – would be ineffective in helping medical staff know whether the patient wanted to try the new treatment. If we allowed the living will to control the course of action, the patient might die without ever having access to new treatments. But along came the durable power of attorney for health care (now the health care advance directive in Georgia) which appoints a health agent to speak with medical providers. The health agent can take new information and make an informed decision regarding whether new treatments might benefit the patient.

Looking at it another way, trusts often control beneficiaries. A trust might be structured to encourage (if not require) higher education. They can be structured to motivate beneficiaries to pay off debt or invest in particular ways. They can be structured to protect special needs individuals, especially their access to public benefits. Trusts can be helpful tools, but the beneficiaries don’t always see things that way because they feel, … well, … controlled.

In other cases, control can be used when a Will-maker or a trust creator makes a gift to charity or to someone other than an obvious family choice. It is less controlling than a trust requiring particular actions. However, it nonetheless is a way of using control to benefit one person or entity rather than another. In most cases, this type of control is understood because in our legal system, an owner has the right to give his or her property away to whomever he or she chooses. The result, however, can still be disappointing to those who thought they’d get an inheritance (or a larger one). This really isn’t any different from how Paul described God’s blessing in Romans 9:18, so its hard for Christian to argue that a property owner has some duty to give an inheritance to particular persons.

As with other motivators, our purpose here isn’t to judge the use of control. We’re simply identifying reasons why people act the way they do.


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