Summary: Ahab’s provides an example that greed can lead to mistreatment of others and disregard for God’s laws
One evening last week while our grandchildren were with us, Sue told our 4-year-old granddaughter to go upstairs and tell me that dinner was ready. Her 8-year-old brother overheard the conversation and ran up the stairs ahead of her to tell me. The 4-year-old, still half-way up the stairs, let out a loud wail and burst into tears, saying, “Grandma told me to say it.” And she would not be comforted.
It was a teachable moment, so I told the 8-year-old, “Just because you are faster and bigger doesn’t mean that you can take advantage of her.” And I told him that I thought he owed her an apology. He did apologize and she accepted it through her tears.
Then my mind went back to a time when my little brother was holding one of those rolled up calendars with a steel rim across the top. I was bigger and stronger and I wanted it. When he didn’t give it to me, I grabbed hold of it and pulled, slicing his fingers in the process. I don’t remember apologizing, although nice boy that I was I’m sure that I did!
Some of you kids probably know how it feels when a school bully uses his size or his strength to tease or even to hurt you. Or, and I hope this isn’t true, maybe you have acted like a bully, getting what you want because you are bigger, faster, stronger or smarter.
Unfortunately, some of you have been abused or molested by people older and bigger than you and even after many years still carry the pain and the scars with you. And even though you have forgiven, it’s hard to forget. One author said, “Humans are such fragile creatures. They can be broken beyond repair.” Let me assure you that God wants to heal your brokenness. And in a few moments, I will invite you to bring your brokenness to God. (H. Schwartzendtruber. Jesus in Back Alleys. DreamSeeker Books. 2002)
All too often we hear in the news about poor people who get lots of jail time for a $10 crime and rich people who get off scot-free even though they have committed a million-dollar crime. The powerful often get their own way. If you have been following the news from the Middle East, you know that when the Israelis suspect someone from a Palestinian family might be a terrorist, the army bulldozes their house down. And the family is powerless to do anything about it. You might have also heard that the Israelis are building a concrete wall the length of the country to keep the Palestinians out of Israel. This wall goes right through the vineyards and orchards of the Palestinians, leaving them with no land, no crops, and no income. I find it ironic that Israel, who once was oppressed, is now the oppressor. Our world seems stacked in favor of those who have the resources and the power.
A moment ago we heard the story of Ahab, king of Israel long ago. On first reading, it may sound like a simple story of selfishness and greed. Here is a man who, even though he was king over a whole nation, was not satisfied. He wanted a little plot of land next door and he schemed to get it. He fit the description of Proverbs 21:26, All day long the wicked covet. Even though he already had a lot, it was not enough. Many of you know the answer that John Rockefeller, one of American’s richest men, once gave to the question, “How much money do you need?” “Just a little more,” he said. That is the way it was for King Ahab. He wanted just a little bit more. Last Monday’s reading in Our Daily Bread said, “Greed whispers in our ear that we would be happier if we had more money, more things, and more power. It creates discontent and a growing desire to do whatever it takes to gain position and possessions.”
Many times, people try to fill the spiritual vacuum in their hearts with material things when Jesus should be the real treasure of their lives. Eventually, Ahab got what he wanted, but his whole family suffered for it. In our country that has happened to some greedy executives of corporations as well. Proverbs 15:27 says, Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households.
The story of Ahab is more than a story about greed; it is a story about power and injustice, about big people running over little people. But this story also reminds us that God is on the side of the little people, the powerless, the victims of injustice. As one author has written, “The popular gods of the human race [may] show much more respect and consideration for the strong, the wealthy, and the powerful than they do for the weak,” but in the Bible we have a God who chose to combat the strong in behalf of the weak. (G. Earnest Wright & Reginald H. Fuller, The Acts of God. Anchor Books 1969. p.75). When Jesus preached his first sermon, he quoted from the prophet Isaiah in Luke 4:18. God cares about the weak and the oppressed.