“To Give or To Get”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Luke 6:37-38
2 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

Luke 6:37-38

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

2 Kings 2:10-12, 3:3-14

Then David slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

When I read this story of Solomon’s conversation with God, my heart swells up in thankfulness.  I imagine David, heart swelling with pride and gratitude, that his son is seeking God.  For those of you who’ve spent time with children, you know the prayers you make that your child will cause no harm but that he or she will choose what is right and good in life.  You know their natural inclinations to selfishness and manipulation.  You have seen them battle with temptation and sin. You have watched as they’ve grabbed for as much as they can get, without regard for one another.  And you pray to God that the bits and pieces you have taught them will guide them toward a whole and good life.

Here we witness as Solomon heeds his Father’s instructions to follow in God’s ways.  Here we overhear Solomon humble himself in God’s presence, referring to himself as only a little child – not because he was a little child but because he feels small and inexperienced in the weighty matters of being ruler over the people.  The people are too many to count.  Who can possibly govern them, he asks God.  And so he asks God for wisdom.  Solomon knows that without an understanding mind to discern between good and evil, right and wrong, he cannot possibly lead them well.

All too many leaders have quickly forgotten their former days of modest means amid common folk, tripping off their own sense of boundless power and authority.  Too many have gotten drunk on power – taking whatever they please, acting on their basest desires, and thoroughly distracting themselves in overindulgence.  Solomon asks for none such things.  Solomon doesn’t ask for things at all.

Connecting with the weight of his calling, Solomon rightly sees that his means and abilities do not satisfy the great need.  This people needs a leader who will rightly guide them.  He wants to be that for them, but he knows that the kind of understanding he will need escapes him, unless God will give it to him.

And so he asks.

And God is pleased with Solomon’s prayer. God is pleased because Solomon has not prayed for the same things so many others pray for – for riches, for revenge against their enemies, for long life, for the promotion of his ideas and agendas.

Rather, Solomon prays that God would equip him to lead rightly.

All along, God has warned the people of the abuses Kings would commit.  God warned the people of Israel that the Kings would take whatever they need, their flocks and grain, their sons and daughters.  Indeed, governments and kings do take such things in order to function.  But in Solomon we find a King who is less concerned with what he will take and more concerned about what he will give.  And that pleases the Lord.

And so God grants Solomon wisdom, unlike any who had come before him or any who would come after him.  And because Solomon hasn’t asked for all those other enriching things for himself, God says God will give him riches and honor, unlike any other, and that if Solomon will walk in God’s ways, God will actually lengthen his life.

Here, God’s actions toward Solomon embody what I have so often felt as a parent:  the desire to bless my child, if only he would do good, so that I can!  Do you know what I’m talking about?  All we want is good for our children – to bless and give them good things – and yet, how many times have you had to withhold something good because their behavior was such that something good would only spoil them, lead them to feelings of entitlement, or rob them of a valuable life lesson?  So many times I’ve wanted to shout, “Would you just get this?!  Because if you just do this right & well, then the skies the limit; there is so much good you can enjoy when your behavior is right.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

And when we read David’s advise to Solomon before his death, we hear echoes of this same desire as he entreats his son to walk in God’s ways that he might prosper.

We want good for all those we love, and so we encourage them to do right SO THAT THEY MAY TASTE the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  We want them to sow, so that they may reap.  We want them to work so they may earn.  We want them to deal kindly with others, that they may also receive kindness in their days of need.

In order to receive all that God has for us, we need to walk in God’s ways, following after God with all our heart and doing good.  This is how we become ready.  This is how we access all that God has prepared for us.

It isn’t by grabbing as much as we can get…  It isn’t by stockpiling our assets and keeping the lid tightly closed…  It isn’t by making sure we’re always the winner and not the looser.

No in God’s world, we get by giving. In God’s world, it is better to give than to receive.  Jesus says, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over,…”

We are to be more concerned about giving than about getting.

We are to be more concerned with what we have to offer than with what we have to gain.

We are to focus on doing our part

And GOD will focus on providing us what we need.

Quite often it will be far better

than what we would have gathered for ourselves.

This story is not meant to deter you from praying for whatever your needs are.  Through-out scripture, we are encouraged to cast our cares upon God, because God cares for us.  We are reminded that God even knows the number of hairs on our heads.  No concern is too small for our God.  We are to pray boldly.

But what this scripture reminds us is that we do not exist for ourselves alone.  We are not here to get as much as we can.  We are not here to experience as much pleasure as we can.  We do not exist for ourselves alone.  We are not the beginning or the end.  We are not the main point of it all.

Rather, insofar as we shine, we shine in the immutable brightness of our God.  Insofar as we love, we do so from the steadfast love of our God.  Insofar as we do justice, we are walking into the perfect justice of our God.  Insofar as we are wise, we are reflecting the perfect wisdom of our God. 

GODis the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, the point of it all.

Everything good comes from God, and our lives are not our own.

Solomon could have lived as so many Kings and Queens did before and after him.  He could have lived as if he was the center of the universe, as though his needs and wants were central and paramount, the means and the end.

But he did not.

He knew he was called to a purpose. And his focus was on fulfilling that purpose.

GOD took care of everything else.  Making him one of the richest and most renowned kings of all time.

When all is said and done

And our lives are a memory

May it be said of us that we answered God’s call,

that we were more concerned with what we could give than what we could get,

and that many were blessed because of us.

And GOD will care for us

…better than we could have ever cared for ourselves.

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