Monday, July 7, 2014

1 Kings 21:2-4 -- On Covetousness and Corruption

"And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.
And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.
And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him: for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread."
1 Kings 21:2-4

This is an interesting scripture because it describes the events leading up to tragedy.  David's tragedy starts out similarly... David couldn't sleep, so he went for a walk on the roof of his palace.  He saw a beautiful woman.  ... What would have changed in David's life if it had stopped there?  He could have said, oh, whoops, didn't come up here to spy on bathing women... better go back down and get to sleep.  And Ahab could have stopped here.  He offered a fair bargain to Naboth, but Naboth wouldn't take it.  Ahab pouts, but theoretically, he could have eventually gotten over it, maybe purchased someone else's field, and moved on.  But both of these men, both of these kings, decided otherwise.  They wanted something, so they were going to take it, leading them both eventually to murder.
We aren't kings, but we probably have an equal amount of pride.  We run into things in life and we think... but I *want* it.  This is important to me.  Why would a person, or circumstance, or even God, prevent me from obtaining that one thing?  And we have a hard time letting it go.  It could be anything... a woman, as with David, an herb garden as with Ahab... a mess of pottage, approval, the flocks of our brother, authority, priesthood, a house, a new car, money, a man, or great aunt Hilda's music box.  Whatever it is that we feel we deserve and that is being denied us.  God tries to remind us in the ten commandments of this very danger.  "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s" (Exodus 20:17).  It doesn't mean we can't want things, or work for them... but coveting goes a step further.  It's wanting something so much that we are willing to do anything for it.  Wanting it so much that we make ourselves sick over it.  Sort of like an addiction.  We want the drug so much that we're willing to lie and steal and betray and sell ourselves for it.
Ahab wanted a herb garden that much.  He wanted it so much that when his wife offered to use his authority to get it, he didn't ask questions.  And when she told him that Naboth was dead, did he worry then?  Not so much.  He just went out to the vineyard to check it out.  And maybe we laugh a little... all this over an herb garden? :)  But covetousness isn't funny, at all.  It starts wars, feuds... lifetimes of pain, broken hearts, and lost souls.  It turns good men into bad, and it can poison all of us, if we are not careful.
Today, let's take a look at that tenth commandment in relation to our lives.  Let's make sure that we aren't over the line on that one.  Do we want something more than we want God?  Are we willing to risk our relationship with God for anything?  Are our desires for something consuming our thoughts or filling us with anger?  ... If so, let's stop the cycle now.  Before we turn into murderers or addicts or ruin our lives and corrupt our souls.  The whole idea of the Gadianton Robbers was this same idea... to kill and steal to get gain.  That's why Cain killed Abel.  We don't want to be in that company.
I'm not saying it is easy to let it go.  Whatever it is, even in Ahab's case, it is important to us, by definition.  It is something that we really, really want.  Giving it up is the last thing we want to do.  And in some cases it isn't even that easy to see.  It isn't something easily labeled as bad like pornography or illegal drugs.  And, like Ahab, many times it doesn't make any sense to us why we *can't* have it.  It's just someone being stubborn or greedy or inequitable, we think.  But even when we don't understand why, even when we're clearly in the right, even when the system needs to be fixed... we still need to stop the cycle, because the next step in the cycle is tragedy.  Where we sacrifice our principles and darken our souls in order to get it anyway, over anyone's objections, even God.  And then we're so far past the line and have already committed so much that we can convince ourselves that we were right in screwing up our own lives, that we're martyrs for the cause... and we don't consider that we can still repent and come back.  Although we think we've gained something in becoming martyrs, we've actually lost everything... because God *is* everything, and on his side is the only place it is worthwhile to be.  Whatever we're pouting over today, let's remember that, with God, we can be happy *now* ... we don't need anything else.  And if we put God first, that he will bless us with everything else that we need.  ... Let's save ourselves a lot of pain and let whatever it is go. 


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