The danger of natural attributes
1 Samuel 17: Go. And God help you!
I’ve been thinking about why Saul, himself, didn’t fight Goliath. After all, Saul is the king, leader of the army. He’s never been afraid in previous battles and has a reputation for being a fierce fighter. Goliath stands over nine feet tall, but Saul towers a head and shoulders above all the other men of Israel. Yet day after day, he allows his army to cower before Goliath’s challenge. I think the last part is the key. Saul is used to being the biggest. David isn’t a big man in the first place, but Saul is. In fact, and I’m just guessing here, it may be that Saul has never in his adult life seen another human being who’s taller than himself. Think of the psychological impact of that. Saul sees in Goliath not only a man bigger than he is, but also a man who’s clearly more skilled at hand-to-hand combat. This frightens Saul in a way that he’s never been frightened before. In fact, it has frozen him to the point that he’s ready to send young David, with all the confidence of his youth, to battle the giant in his stead. I think that it’s possible for our advantages to become our disadvantages. Natural attributes can blind us to our own weaknesses. Gifts can hinder the development of skills. For instance, a person who’s naturally a good speaker or singer may rely on that gift, but ultimately will be less useful to God than a person who had to early on learn to rely on God if they were to effectively minister. Sooner or later life sends us a Goliath, a circumstance in which our natural gifts, as great as they are, aren’t enough. Even gifted people must learn to rely on God, or they risk becoming Saul, hiding in his tent instead of battling Goliath.
Take Away: Ultimately, we all come to the end of ourselves so it’s better to early on learn to rely on him.
A little dirty, but no worse for wear
Matthew 25: It’s criminal to live cautiously like that!
A wealthy man is going on a long trip and in preparation for leaving he assigns three trusted servants to handle his investments for him while he’s gone. He doesn’t take his assets and divide them by three. Instead, he entrusts his servants with differing amounts based on their capabilities of handling such responsibilities. The most gifted (and trusted) servant comes through with flying colors. The next servant does just as well with the smaller amount placed under his control. The third servant, though, is a miserable failure. He wasn’t considered to be especially capable in the first place, but the wealthy man took that into consideration by giving him less responsibility. The third servant, though, doesn’t even try. He hides the money and waits for the day of accounting. This approach angers the wealthy man and it’s the undoing of the third servant who’s thrown out. He isn’t fired because he didn’t do as well with his money as did the first servant. Rather, he’s thrown out for doing nothing with the resources placed in his hands. In the Kingdom of God, we’re valued based on our faithfulness rather than our capability. Had the most gifted servant hidden the larger amount placed in his care he would have been the one thrown out. Had this third servant returned with even meager interest he would have been commended for a job well done. The thing that concerns me today isn’t that I see some who have greater ability and more high profile positions in the Kingdom of God. My concern is that I be faithful with what the Lord has given me. I don’t want to face God with empty hands.
Take Away: What must I do to be a good steward of what God has placed in my hands?
A given life
Isaiah 66: But there is something I’m looking for: a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say.
I don’t know much about the wise men in the Christmas story, but I do know that they come to Jesus. The gifts they bring are, I understand, expensive ones. Beyond those material things, though, the important thing is that they bring themselves. In this passage Isaiah reminds me that God made it all and he owns it all. He’s not depending on me to bring him gold, frankincense, and myrrh or anything else for that matter. He is, though, counting on me to bring him my reverent obedience. I believe a person ought to practice their faith in Christ in practical ways, including being a good steward of all that has been placed in his or her hands. However, the offering I give is simply an outflow of a given life. That’s a gift that’s guaranteed to please the Lord.
Take Away: Our offerings are an outflow of our given lives.
2 Chronicles 8: Solomon built impulsively and extravagantly.
From other passages we know that Solomon built other things, including his palace before he built the Temple. Some think that’s a bad thing. I think it was just practice. Still, once he started building things David’s son could hardly stop himself. In fact, Solomon’s psychology is that of an impulsive overachiever. From the rest of his story, especially from the Book of Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs I see Solomon being consumed by one thing after another. At the beginning of his story he asks for and receives the gift of wisdom, now he can’t rest until he has mastered whatever it is that catches his attention. In fact, the same thirst for understanding that causes him to be a great builder and king will become his downfall as he becomes infatuated with the women he marries and then their various gods. I don’t think the Lord sat Solomon up for a fall in granting him wisdom, but I do think that the seed of failure was in it. In fact, I think that all gifts granted to us: natural ability, attributes, and talents have the potential of being a great blessing or the source of great failure for us. In Solomon, even as we celebrate his wisdom and understanding of an encyclopedia of things, we see a red flag of warning that there’s danger in natural abilities. These things must be continually balanced by an honest admission that we’re incomplete without God, who brings balance to even the most gifted life.
Take Away: When the Lord gifts us in any way the wise course of action is to bring those gifts right back to him and place them under his authority.
Water from the well
1 Chronicles 11: He refused to drink it.
Included in the genealogy of the Chronicles are the names and sample exploits of great warriors who serve under David. “The Thirty,” is a band of brave and capable fighters. This group has an awesome leader and some especially outstanding men called the “Big Three.” At one point David, who’s on the run from Saul, comments that he’d love a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem. However, Bethlehem’s under Philistine rule at the time. That detail doesn’t stop the “Big Three” from fighting their way into Bethlehem, drawing water from the well there, and then withdrawing to bring it to David. David’s overwhelmed by this gift and refuses to drink it. To him, this is a gift too precious to be received as a common thing so instead of drinking the water he pours it out as an offering to God. I’ve never had anyone go to battle to bring me a drink of water but I’ve had some people do some wonderful things for me. When that happens I don’t want to treat their sacrifice as a common thing. Some gifts that are intended for me are so valuable that I know they’re too good for me. When that happens, I can take the example of David, and make it an offering to the Lord.
Take Away: Kindnesses done to us ought to be appreciated. They should also humble us.