There are always those who want to go their own way.
Though the promised land of Canaan was a land “flowing with milk and honey,” and though it was a present the Lord was giving Israel, The tribes and Reuben and Gad said: “No thanks.” After all, they weren’t farmers, but cattlemen. They asked if they might have land outside Canaan, east of the Jordan.
This didn’t mean that the land of promise was not suitable for flocks and herds. It only meant the Reubenites and Gadites were satisfied with where they were. Rather than take a chance the Lord’s blessings would be better, they were willing to settle for what they knew and what they could see.
Moses saw their request for what it was, a deliberate attempt to go their own way, looking after themselves rather than being united with the community of the Lord. He rebuked them in such blunt language that the two tribes came back with an alternative proposal: they would enter the land and help to conquer it, but they didn’t want it for themselves. However you look at it, their refusal of God’s gift was an insult – but Moses allowed it. Note that God is not consulted, nor does He speak during this event.
The divisive spirit of Reuben and Gad was infectious. No sooner are their demands met than the half-tribe of Manasseh asks for a share of land outside Canaan too.
Today in the Church there are always those who want to go their own way rather than keep company with the community of Faith. They always have what seems to be good reasons – at least to them. But they are always divisive, and, like these three tribes, will always end up outside the Land of Promise.