By: The Rev. Sean Ekberg
I often tell folks that God isn’t a Coke Machine. We don’t get to insert our prayers and receive the intended purchase—that’s just not how it works. God doesn’t show up on our doorstep or in our dreams and say, “Hey, you know what? You’ve been really good this year…name anything and its yours.” Our memories are pretty short, however, and we forget that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is the gift that keeps on giving—really. How dare we ask for anything else? How could we possibly expect God to give more than Godself to us? Is there any sane person on the planet that would ask someone for a favor after they literally gave all they had to give?
Well. Yes. But maybe without the ‘sane’ component.
We do it all the time. We lament the tragedies in our personal, professional and global spheres and wail to God for grace. Which, to be honest, we should, as Philippians 4: 6-7 reminds us. But we also ask for things sometimes that really aren’t necessary to our survival. “Hey…um…I know you gave Jesus and all, but I just saw my buddy’s new house and…erm…why can’t I be that ‘blessed’?” We’re so bad at being thankful, so bad at accepting that free will exists in others just the same as it does in us—and that others’ free will isn’t always going to coincide with the good we’d like to see in the world. In short:
We’re so bad.
That’s what makes this excerpt from 1 Kings 2 so infuriating. We get to witness someone who has everything—everything—receive another boon from God. Not only that, but God speaks to him in a dream!! The audacity of God to pick someone so fortunate is beyond me. I mean, why doesn’t God pick someone lowly to visit—someone who’s been just as faithful?
Well, then why doesn’t God pick someone who’s had everything but lost it and then visit them somehow, making them great?
Why didn’t God pick someone who could literally change the face of the planet if he so chose, but then humble him by a gruesome betrayal and death, and then give him the boon of eternal life through resurrection or something like that?
See, the thing we hate about this pericope in 1 Kings isn’t that Solomon gets the goods from God. The reason this story sits poorly with some of us is simple: We know that, given the same opportunity, we’d choose wealth, health, or maybe the ability to fly around, and jump buildings in a single bound. Preaching on this particular moment can serve as a reminder to our people that God chooses people from their faith, and their faith alone. It doesn’t matter where they come from, who they are, or how many Benjamins they have in their tribe or wallet. A shepherd became a king. A manger became a throne. A virgin became a mother. And Solomon, being the faithful man he was, just wanted to be a bit smarter in order to guide his people in better ways.
What if we reminded folks about that? What if we preached a word that exhorted people to recognize their own potential—and the potential of others—regardless of socio-economic-status, creed, station, or pigmentation? And then to make them think about what they’d ask of God. I’m willing to bet that the folks in the pews may have arguments, but in the long run, they’d use some good ol’ fashioned introspection and see ways in which they aren’t living into the faith they so vehemently espouse.
And I imagine we’d hear ourselves, too, and do the same damned thing.
This one preaches to all, in many ways. Whether it’s recognizing the ‘good’ in our lives rather than the bad; the abundance rather than the scarcity; the humility rather that the ‘I deserve more’… What would we do if God gave us one wish?
I’d wish to have the wisdom of Solomon…not his gold.