May 6, 2008


In the sad culture in which we live, we are all too accustomed to hearing about high-end theft—mail fraud, money laundering, etc. One of the chief methods of sophisticated thievery is the misallocation, or misappropriation, of funds—it’s a politician accepting illegal kickbacks; a university president going to Hawaii on state funds; a nun taking diocese funds to the blackjack table; a pastor funneling church offerings into his own pockets. And all of it is theft. Someone gives something for a designated purpose, and the money is misallocated (stolen) for selfish, personal use.

But it occurred to me, this week, that we often do the same dirty deed to our God and Father. We misallocate His gifts, using them for purposes other than that for which He designated them—we use sex for cheap thrills; we use money to tickle our own fancies; we use time for a whole lot of nothing; we use lips meant to praise God for tearing others down! All misallocations of God’s gifts; all forms of robbing God!

I was reminded of this folly again this week from the story of poor Solomon. I call him poor not because he was literally poor (as we shall see), but because he so often set himself up to be remembered for all the foolish things he did, rather than for his wisdom and love for God. Solomon was given a great gift by the Lord—he became greater than all the kings of the earth in wisdom (1 Kings 10.23). “All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart” (1 Kings 10.24). So far, so good. God had given Solomon a gift, and Solomon appeared to be making good use of it. But verse 25 gives us a hint into what happened as Solomon used God’s gift of wisdom: “They brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.”

Now what was wrong with that? Didn’t Solomon deserve a little kick back? Well, actually, NO! God had commanded in Deuteronomy 17 that Israel’s king should not multiply wives (which Solomon did in a extravagant way, 1 Kings 11.1-4); that he should not multiply horses, especially not Egyptian ones (which Solomon also did, 1 Kings 10.28-29); and that he should not become rich and silver and gold, which Solomon did in the passage we have been discussing! Three instructions given to the king, and all three broken!

Now what makes Solomon’s increasing wealth even sadder is that he gathered it in the form of counseling fees! As people came and benefited from God’s free gift to Solomon, he used that free gift to make himself wealthy! He had originally asked for wisdom so that he might know how to govern God’s people. And God had given it for that purpose. He had written, if you will, the words: ‘For: Shepherding My people, Israel’ in the bottom left-hand corner of the check. But Solomon misappropriated the gift. Instead of using it simply to shepherd God’s people wisely, he used his wisdom to build for himself international acclaim (“all the earth” was seeking him out), and to gather for himself unnecessary and forbidden wealth!

Now there is a lesson here for us all. Whether God has given you the gift of wisdom in some secular field; or the gift of preaching; or a talent for music; or an ability to lead people; or any spiritual gift mentioned in the Bible … He has not given it to you so that you could make a name and a fortune for yourself! He has written, as it were, in the corner of the check: ‘For: My glory’! And we need to use His gifts for that purpose. Whatever it is He has given us the ability to do, we must not use it to make a name for ourselves, or a cushy lifestyle for ourselves—but to reflect His glory; to use the money for His kingdom; to deflect the praise to our Maker.

This counsel especially applies to those of us who are preachers. People come to us to hear God’s wisdom. There is nothing wrong with that. Hopefully we are able to oblige them. But God forbid that we use our ability to dispense the truth to build a name for ourselves; to accrue more and more pats on the back; as leverage to garner a bigger salary or a bigger church. God forbid! So would you pray for your pastor—that he would have and heed the wisdom of Solomon—and also learn from his folly?

No comments: