Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Open Hands

I was asked to submit an article to a community organization that works with our city’s poor. They strive to help those living in poverty enter into the middle class. They do not do it through financial assistance. Rather they work to eliminate poverty through relationships and education. The article is not directly related to the issue of discernment but seem appropriate to place on this blog.

Here is the article:

We have been in a sermon series over the life of David this year. While I have been in ministry for over twenty years, I am finding obscure stories that I don’t remember. As I reflect on the work of Teamwork, I would like to highlight a little known story from 1 Samuel 30. If you find this story familiar, you can consider yourself a scholar.

David is on a mission to rescue his and his men’s wives and children. They have been taken as slaves during a raid while David and his men are off in battle. Along the way, two hundred (of David’s six hundred men) abandon the mission. We read,

(1 Samuel 30:9–10 NIV) David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Ravine, where some stayed behind, for two hundred men were too exhausted to cross the ravine. But David and four hundred men continued the pursuit.

They come upon an abandoned Egyptian slave who just so happens to be connected to the enemy. The slave leads David’s men to the raiding party where upon David and his men are victorious in rescuing their families.

(1 Samuel 30:18–20 NIV) David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, “This is David’s plunder.”

Everything is restored plus more; life is good for the four hundred men. This is where the story gets interesting. On the way back to their village, they meet the 200 who abandoned the mission. Notice the language of the text. David is kind.

(1 Samuel 30:21 NIV) As David and his men approached, he greeted them.

But others are not so generous. They are called evil men and troublemakers in the NIV translation (wicked and worthless in the ESV translation). Observe their response.

(1 Samuel 30:22 NIV) But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”

They are willing to return their wives and children, but they do not want to share their abundance. They feel entitled to what they have.

David’s calls them out. He has a different view of the wealth they have been given.

(1 Samuel 30:23–25 ESV) But David said, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the LORD has given us. He has preserved us and given into our hand the band that came against us. Who would listen to you in this matter? For as his share is who goes down into the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage. They shall share alike.” And he made it a statute and a rule for Israel from that day forward to this day.

David credits God for his riches. He commands his men to share alike. As middle to upper class citizens in the United States, we often have more than we need. We have been given tremendous opportunity to earn a living wage. At the same time, others among us are struggling economically. The reasons are varied. We may ask why the two hundred men were exhausted and unable to continue. Perhaps they were struck with a virus or illness. Maybe they were overcome with grief. We don’t know the answer; yet it doesn’t seem to matter to David. David restores their dignity and invites them to rejoin the group.

As we support the efforts of Teamwork for Quality living, we can model David’s approach. Instead of penalizing the two hundred, he offers equal standing. May we understand our resources as gifts from God and live our lives with open hands toward those who are under resourced.