Text: Psalm 5 and1 Kings 21:1-21
Our world is full of things that are out of our reach.
We dwell on what we don’t have rather than rejoice for what we have.
Our world is full of “easy solutions” that compromise our ethics or ideals.
God gives us a conscience, but we try to evade it.
But our world also contains truth and prophets, seeking to chasten our greed.
May the Holy Spirit correct us, and keep us on the paths that lead to righteousness.
Sometimes our choices are not between good and evil, but the choice between competing claims or interests. Most of our failure is due to the slow erosion of principles. Undisciplined in our commitments we can soon find ourselves drifting from the harbor of faith into an ocean of regrets. I like Naboth, how he answered clarity and with conviction: "The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance."
in ancient Israel, high value was placed on keeping land within the extended family. For a faithful man like Naboth to let the king have his vineyard would be the moral equivalent of selling the king his first-born child. An honorable person wouldn’t consider it.
The 10th commandment. Do you remember it? The last climatic commandment? Thou shalt not covet. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thy neighbor’s spouse, thy neighbor’s servants, and presumably thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s vineyard either
The plain English word for Ahab and Jezebel’s sin, a sin that will ruin the human soul, ruin a nation, is greed. Where does greed come from?
It comes from the worry that you never have enough and that you must have more and you will do whatever you can to get more, even if it belongs to someone else. This is something our nation needs to think deeply about, years after we were founded. America’s obsession with getting and spending can’t be good for its soul.
This matter of coveting is also a personal issue. I think how it shows up in my heart – I’m not going to have someone executed – but I can be envious. Can you? I can look at someone and think, boy, I wish I looked like that! Or I wish I had what she has. We rarely take from others what they have, but none of us is above being envious of those who have what we want.
Sometimes we don’t even admit it to ourselves, but we can act hatefully toward the person who has what we do not and not even be aware of it. Thou shalt not covet. It’s not a commandment meant to make us miserable. It’s a commandment meant to make us human in the way God intended
Good argument against a society approving of capital punishment. Even if the Law of the Bible allows for it, it can be evil and displeasing in the eyes of God. It can be misused.
2 witnesses—Deut. Law 17.6
And speak to the people of Israel, saying: Anyone who curses God shall bear the sin. One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death" (Lev. 24:15-16).
When you do everything so biblically, what can go wrong?
I understand that you may have personal opinions on the matter of capital punishment that differ with one another, but as a church we speak with one voice to challenge it. If you are personally for it, and are bothered that your church speaks differently than you do personally, allow the voice of the church to be a conversation partner.
“Well-meaning people of faith weigh in on both sides of the debate. Some argue the death penalty deters crime and protects society. Others contend that it has not proven to be a deterrence, is biased against the poor and African Americans, and isn't something Jesus would "do." The death penalty is currently legal in 38 U.S. states.
The United Methodist Church, in its Social Principles, officially opposes capital punishment and urges its elimination from all criminal codes. The church's General Conference, a delegated body representing members around the world, meets every four years and is the only entity that can take official positions for the denomination. Those statements are included in the church's Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions. On many issues addressed by the church, individual members hold a wide range of viewpoints, including outright opposition to denomination policy.”
The United Methodist Church has held this position for 50 years. At the 1956 General Conference in Minneapolis, delegates first passed legislation that put the church officially on record as opposed to the death penalty.
Each Methodist and United Methodist General Conference since that time has reaffirmed its opposition to capital punishment
I am reminded of those famous words of Lord Acton from the 19th century, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Here you see it plain and clear, tyranny at its bloodiest. Note that the one who plotted the bloodshed and the one who allowed the plot to go forward had no actual blood on their hands. When the stoning took place, they were miles away.
Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead" (21:15). In these words we can almost hear a reverse echo of the story of the prodigal son, who was not dead, but living, was lost and became found.
God, through Elijah, ahs the last word, though--
You have sold yourself"—that's the most damaging accusation of all, isn't it? Because that one strikes at our own twenty-first century hearts. We talk a lot about the true self, coming to one's self, finding one's self. So to be accused of selling one's self—that is the sale we have made many times. For popularity when we were in high school or college, for the love at whatever price of virtue or integrity when we were in our twenties and thirties, for money and success any time it was offered. Oh, we stand before Elijah or whatever prophet God calls before us, because we know that we have sold ourselves.
Remember hearing the legend of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads to become the greatest blues singer. I was scared I’d accidently sell my soul to the devil somehow. Probably more subtle than a ‘big black man” as Johnson described it “coming and tuning our guitar” or making some kind of formal exchange with a certificate, as usually portrayed.
Ahab probably didn’t see himself at a “crossroads” when he went home and pouted about not getting the vineyard. No—it was process.
When we sell ourselves, we sell our souls. When we allow greed to deform us, we have subtly sold our souls. But they aren’t ours to sell—
What a wonderful opportunity; what a wonderful responsibility we have to replace this addiction to having more things with having more compassion for others, to replace the love of power with the power to love, as God loved the world, as revealed in Jesus Christ, who let go of everything for our sakes, including equality with God.