Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A sheep for everyone!

2 Samuel 12:1-7
1So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell (King) David this story: 
“There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle. 3The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. 4One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”
5David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! 6He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

7Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man!"

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This story seems so obviously damning.  It's the story from the Bible of King David (of Goliath-slaying fame).  David as the wealthiest, most powerful man in all the land, with multiple princess-wives already, saw another man's wife (Bathsheba) taking a bath and decided he wanted to had her to his collection.  He manipulated things to put her husband in danger, and when hubby died, took Bathsheba as his wife.

It's obviously wrong.  It's obviously greed and a misuse of power.  The rich get richer, the poor get poorer (or deader in this case).

It's so obviously wrong that when Nathan confronts David and tells his story using different characters (the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent), David becomes outraged at the injustice and proclaims damnation upon the guilty.  

The obvious problem is that David was the one who was guilty...the rich who was using his power to get richer at the expense of others.  Nice one, David.

Are we like David?

Is there a storyline where we are the rich ones seeking to get richer at the expense of those who have little to begin with anyway?

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The truth is, this is probably more of the norm than the exception for those of us in the USA. 

On a global scale, we demand lower gas prices than the rest of the world (and use our powerful military to force the issue, if needed).  

We demand the best choice of jobs and are outraged when jobs leave the USA for other countries, where people who have far less opportunities will work for less money than we demand (and then fight to take back the jobs from those less fortunate overseas workers).  

At the same time, we demand such low prices on our shoes and clothing that those putting them together suffer through horrible working conditions and minimal wages.

Locally, the systems of our society are structured so that the privileged will continue to thrive, and the under-prepared will continue to struggle.

Frankly, we want what seems favorable for us, regardless of who loses out so that we might gain.

As far as nations go, that's what you would expect--that a nation would use any means necessary to protect its own interests.  As far as kings go, David's actions are hardly shocking.

But should Christians stand for this?  Can we actually be justified in rooting for our own interests at the expense of others?

Or should we be rooting for jobs to relocate to the nations that have no food to even feed their children?  Should we accept that our gas prices might go up, so that youth would not have to die to ensure our position of privilege?  Should we be willing to pay more for shoes, clothes, and coffee to ensure proper treatment of laborers?

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Later in the conversation between Nathan and David, Nathan says that David's selfish actions have "given the enemies of the LORD great opportunity to despise and blaspheme him."

David was claiming to be a servant of God, and yet as others watched his life, he looked very little like the God he claimed to serve...and very much like your run-of-the-mill king.

As a result, there was great confusion about who God was, and what he stood for. 

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People are watching the Church to see what kind of God we serve.  Every time we speak, act, or post on Facebook, people see the values that rule our hearts.  And they will either be drawn toward God, or led to despise him.

What are they seeing from the Church? 

Do we stand beside the wealthy king who seeks to benefit from his position of privilege?  

Or beside those with only a sheep to love?