Jabez was a better man than his brothers, a man of honor. (1 Chronicles 4:9)
Mention Jabez in any gathering of Christians, and their minds will jump to a verse made familiar in the 2000 best-seller The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkerson: Bless me, O bless me! Give me land, large tracts of land. And provide your personal protection--don't let evil hurt me. Well, that's how the translators of The Message expressed it.
I won't try to restate what we all have heard. Instead, I'm looking at Jabez's history. We don't know much about him. He was from the tribe of Judah. The passage doesn't mention his father or sons, in a lengthy section about family genealogies, without establishing his ties to the past or future. Obviously, God wanted us to know his prayer. Although blessed with land and protection, Jabez had no particular importance; he's not one of the smiths, musicians, and artisans mentioned later. No reason to mention him--except for his exceptional prayer.
The author describes him with a word that is unfortunately uncommon in the chronicles of the two kingdoms: He was "better" than his brothers. He was a man "of honor."
I go on a dictionary search. Honor seems like it should be easy to define. Given the explanation, "better than his brothers," I assumed that it was used in the sense of "a keen sense of ethical conduct; integrity." So imagine my surprise when that definition ended up eighth on the list.
The translators couldn't seem to settle on the meaning, either. "Honor" and "honorable" vie with "most respected" in describing Jabez's position in his family. A couple of translation mention the most reknowned, or noble. All of those meanings fall within the definition of the English word, honor.
Jabez was a good man--and he was known for it. Whether his reknown was due to his wealth or his integrity--or both--his community looked up to him.
You might say Jabez was a poster child for wealth indicating God's favor. Except, of course, we all know of wealthy men who are evil and poor men who are good.
How's this for a summary statement? Jabez was a man who acted honorably who was treated with honor.
What does it say to us today?
We don't have to let our families define us. (Jabez = pain; Jabez was a "better" man than his brothers.)
If we act honorably and ethically, others will respect us.
A relationship with God lies at the heart of honor.
We can influence both present and future even without an influential family or a position of importance.
P.S. This comes after 1 Chronicles 7 because I accidentally scheduled yesterday's post on the wrong date.