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1 Kings 3:4-9, 16-28, Solomon’s Wisdom

Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today

Then the king responded: “Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.”
— 1 Kings 3:27

NL Daily Devotion for Sunday, October 28, 2018

Meditation Image

by Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff

Okay, follow me on this. Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom to rule God’s people well. The wisdom he acquired was so great, it saved the life of an innocent baby, and reunited the baby with his mother. It took a great deal of wisdom and maturity for Solomon to recognize that wisdom was what he needed above all else. So, which came first—the wisdom of Solomon to ask for wisdom, or the wisdom God gave Solomon because he asked for it?

If you grew up in the church, you’re likely quite familiar with this story. And it comes with a moral... it’s better to ask for selfless things like wisdom than to ask for selfish things like riches or to rule over one’s enemies. So be a selfless Solomon.

If you follow Clergy Stuff, you may have noticed I’m not big on turning God’s stories into morality plays. It’s trite and it diminishes the richness of the stories. The heroes aren’t all saints, and the enemies aren’t all villains. Nobody’s that black and white. And behaving admirably is a learned skill. It takes practice, maturity, and life experience.

Once I had a parishioner who had brought her teenage grandson to worship. He wasn’t a regular in worship, so the whole thing was a little foreign to him. She gave him $5 to put in the offering plate, which he did. After worship, she asked him if he had put the money in with gratitude or with reluctance. He said he was reluctant, that he would rather have kept the $5. She then told him that if he had said he was grateful, she would have given him $5 to keep for himself. But since he put it in reluctantly and without gratitude, she didn’t give him anything.

Here’s what he learned. It’s better to give the right answer than to tell the truth. And giving money to the church is a test and a chore. That’s why I don’t like morality lessons. They’re rarely accurate in what they are trying to teach. They model impossible standards that we can never live up to. And they put us on the defensive rather than really teaching us the tenets of faithful living.

I’d much rather lift up Solomon’s story as a win for God’s people. Sometimes Solomon threw up a loss, like when he worshiped the idols and gods of his many foreign wives. But sometimes he got it right. That’s real life. Sometimes we get a win. Sometimes we fail. Life is a practice. Behaving well takes time, practice, and experience. Actually becoming as good as we try to behave . . . that takes even more maturity and wisdom. It’s a journey, and one well worth taking.

Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:

1 Kings 3:4-9, 16-28

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?”

Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.” So they argued before the king. Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; while the other says, ‘Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” So the king said, “Bring me a sword,” and they brought a sword before the king. The king said, “Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.” But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—“Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!” The other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.” Then the king responded: “Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.” All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.

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