Yesterday I spent my day out in the woods with my bow. The start of deer season is one of the most exciting times of the year and I cannot wait for the adventure that comes throughout the season. When preparing for this season, I found myself looking at rifles, knives, optics and so many other accessories that I may or may not use if I had them. Through all this, one thought prevailed in my mind. To what point do God’s people wastefully spend their hard earned money on things that they want?

I understand that there are a good number of readers here who also consider themselves gun enthusiasts. I also understand that there are a great many more who consider themselves collectors of some other valuable treasure. My question, then, is how, in our frugality, do we honor God or work to advance God’s kingdom in the hearts of men?

“After the death of Saul, David returned from defeating the Amalekites and stayed at Ziklag two days. On the third day a man with torn clothes and dust on his head came from Saul’s camp. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage. David asked him, ‘Where have you come from?’ He replied to him, ‘I’ve escaped from the Israelite camp.’ ‘What was the outcome? Tell me,’ David asked him. ‘The troops fled from the battle,’ he answered. ‘Many of the troops have fallen and are dead.’ Also, Saul and his son Jonathan are dead. David asked the young man who had brought him the report, ‘How do you know Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?’ ‘I happened to be on Mount Gilboa,’ he replied, ‘and there was Saul, leaning on his spear. At that very moment the chariots and the cavalry were closing in on him. When he turned around and saw me, he called out to me, so I answered: ‘I’m at your service.’ He asked me, ‘Who are you?’ I told him: ‘I’m an Amalekite.’ Then he begged me, Stand over me and kill me, for I’m mortally wounded, but my life still lingers. So I stood over him and killed him because I knew that after he had fallen he couldn’t survive. I took the crown that was on his head and the armband that was on his arm, and I’ve brought them here to my lord.’ Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and all the men with him did the same. They mourned, wept, and fasted until the evening for those who died by the sword — for Saul, his son Jonathan, the Lords people, and the house of Israel. David inquired of the young man who had brought him the report, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘I’m the son of a foreigner,’ he said. ‘I’m an Amalekite.’ David questioned him, ‘How is it that you were not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lords anointed?’ Then David summoned one of his servants and said, ‘Come here and kill him!’ The servant struck him, and he died. For David had said to the Amalekite, ‘Your blood is on your own head because your own mouth testified against you by saying, ‘I killed the Lords anointed.’’”[1]

Brief overview

            At the end of the time of the Judges, the people of Israel demanded a king from God. Though appointing a king might have been part of God’s plan all along, God gave His people a king on their terms. He gave them Saul. Saul now has a reputation of being a bad, power hungry, vindictive and apostatical king. God had given him Israel and he abused the kingdom that God had given him. Because of this, God allowed the man that he had appointed to lose his thrown. Saul fell on his own sword and was finished by an Amalekite. After this, God gave Israel to the King that He possibly had for Israel all along. David became known as a man after God’s own heart and managed God’s nation to the glory of God in the world.

 

Those to whom much is given

            According to Christ’s own words in Luke 12:48, “Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.”[2] Within the story of God bringing about an honorable king in Israel, God provided Israel a king on the terms of the people and He provided them a king like those of other nations.[3] Instead of pursuing God’s will for the nation, the people demanded to follow in the footsteps of the kingdoms of the world apart from God’s direction.

In this sense, God handed what was now the kingdom of Israel to Saul and Saul was not a good steward of what God had given him. This attitude results in God’s taking of Israel from Saul, and His doing so quite forcibly. It may be notable that God used the ungodly nations to bring judgment on his own people. At the point of Saul’s death, the people of Israel had ceased listening to the voice of God’s prophetic word through Samuel and had disregarded Samuel’s position as a judge. The King (Saul) was at this point also accustomed to all but ignoring God’s words through Samuel. I think that there is a very valuable lesson to learn here especially as we live in a western context as Christ followers. If any of us fails to heed a warning from a fellow brother or sister in the faith, not considering every word in love and in the interest of honoring and representing God more fully, God may choose to act against us in such a way that we are broken and God’s will might be done despite our apparent hindering of the work of the Gospel. Woe to the Christian who unapologetically stands in God’s way.

It seems almost serendipitous that we discover this part of God’s character as He acted in history toward a man who was not a proper steward of what God had given him; especially so in the context of God’s collective people who failed to steward well the very plan that God had for them. When we, collectively or individually, are not good stewards of God’s graces, God’s placement of authority upon us or the wealth God chooses to bless us with on this earth, it seems that God Himself stands against us even though we are His people and even though we will find our eternity in Him.

Thus, this question of our gaining material wealth for ourselves (for me it is the collection of shooting sports equipment and books) concerns itself not with the intrinsic value of our purchasing or collecting valuables, but instead in whether or not we are being good stewards of the grace, authority and wealth that God has given us for His honor and glory. To word this idea more simply: if we are being good stewards, spending money on expensive merchandise might just be okay.

 

Culture context

The language in scripture leading up to this event seems to indicate that Saul was concerned with doing what pleased him and with what he thought would prophet Israel. On the other hand, David constantly reminded the men under him that God was in control. Israel had demanded a king so that they could follow after other nations instead of after God while all along God had a king chosen for them in David so that God could be revealed through Israel in a world-culture context. Stewardship, then, seems not to concern itself only with what honors God in our personal lives, but also what honors God as we live in an obvious cultural context. Our stewardship in honor of God actually reveals God to those who see us. This means that materialism, because it is so concentrated in western culture, may be necessary for God’s people to buy into in order that God may be revealed to a very materialistic and very self-centered culture.

Now, we must be careful as we make these considerations. We do not want to be guilty, as the Israelites were, of following after this materialism way of life, but we do have to consider that in a western world context, God may actually have material blessings for us. Though we should never be overly frugal, we must consider that our purchasing and owning novelty items may actually better equip us to reach a material-concentrated culture with the message of Jesus Christ. Brothers, we can employ the services of materialism without becoming a slave to it. We realize that we should not accumulate these things for ourselves as treasures. Our treasure is in heaven and we should count all of these things as loss for the Gospel. Instead we accumulate these things trusting that God will use what we have in a material driven culture to reach sinners within that culture so that they might be restored to Him!

Here are some practical implications:

  1. We should not overspend when purchasing any number of material things.
  2. We should not use this idea as an excuse to simply buy whatever we want whenever we want (this would subject us a slaves to materialism).
  3. We should not horde anything we have for ourselves. The book of Revelation describes God’s people as a city, not a landscape!
  4. We must always check our motives when accepting anything and ask the question, “Will this honor God?”
  5. We should always consider others and the mission of the Church before ourselves.

We notice that David, at the end of this passage, had his servant kill the Amalekite who finished Saul because God had anointed Saul. We must recognize that whatever we do, we do for the glory of God and the whole Earth is watching and waiting for God to be revealed. David honored God by recognizing, even though Saul was a horrible king who failed to honor God, that God’s action is the most holy of all actions and that our action should reflect God in that way. So, as our culture becomes more pluralistic and even more saturated in this materialism, let us represent God within that western-world context, never becoming slaves to the ideas of the world, but employing those ideas that do not contradict Christ’s Gospel to serve as a catalyst for the Gospel message. Before anyone asks: no, I did not buy a new rifle before writing this post! Now let’s go and win people for the Kingdom!

[1] 2 Samuel 1:1-16 (HCSB)

[2] (HCSB)

[3] 1 Samuel 8:19

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