. . . posts on faith and life
Are you familiar with this passage?
“Then Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife, and perform your duty as a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother.’ Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother. But what he did was displeasing in the sight of the LORD; so He took his life also (Gen. 38:8-10). This is the prooftext used by the Roman Catholic church to argue against the use of contraceptives. Irregardless of that application of the passage, I believe that there are other applications for us.
One of my very good friends likes to occasionally remind me that, “Life’s all just a scramble for the credit and the blame.” There are times when I think that he has hit the nail on the head with his observation. Unfortunately, I often feel that way in church. Sometimes people’s motives are questionable. Sometimes it seems that people and churches are doing good things, but only for the purpose of getting attention, gaining some “name recognition.” It’s this issue of “name recognition” that brings me to Onan.
The passage tells us that Onan spilled or wasted his seed on the ground because “he knew that the offspring would not be his.” He knew that the child would not be recognized as his offspring. Said another way, he knew that the child would not bear his name, but would bear the name of his brother. Did God judge Onan because he spilled his seed, or because he was not willing to “sow” when it seemed he would not get recognized for the sowing? Perhaps both, but I suspect it’s that latter aspect of motivation that brought God’s judgment.
If we are to find our future I believe that we will have to rid ourselves of our “Onan temptation.” We need elders who are willing to sow into spiritual children without trying to make ultimate identity claims on those children. We need churches who are willing to sow into areas where others will reap the fruit. We need servants who are willing to labor without recognition. And we need enough humility to not only let go of a lot of the credit, but also to take responsibility for a lot of the blame.