"And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beersheba. And his sons walked not in his (Samuel's) ways, but turned aside after lucre (money), and took bribes, and perverted judgment."
I Samuel 8: 1-3, King James Version
"The Times in Which We Live"
"Avarice increases with the increasing pile of gold."
Have I ever found myself going after money as my main ambition in life?
How much money would it take to satisfy me?
What role does money play in my life today?
"Greed stains our culture, soaks our sensibilities and has replaced grace as a sign of our intimacy with the divine."
"Avarice breeds envy, a worm that is always gnawing, letting the avaricious enjoy neither their own nor anyone else's good."
Catherine of Siena
Every time I get in a hurry to push on in our studies of all the women in the Bible, I come across something so valuable and powerful that I have to tell myself, "The Bible isn't to be rushed through - it's to be read through!" For me, the process of reading requires time and thought. It was during one of those more thoughtful moments a few weeks ago, when I reread I Samuel 8.
Wanting to swiftly proceed to study the lives of the women who lived with the first three Kings of Israel, Saul, David and Solomon, I almost missed one of the most relevant points in their stories which is contained in I Samuel 8. I call this chapter a glimpse into, "the world in which you live." For it is this particular chapter which sets the stage for some very lousy treatment of women at the hands of God's anointed kings, no less! And again, as we saw in the book of Judges, painted in living color, when society goes to hell-in-a-hand basket, women and children become the first victims of abuse and violence.
Our text today starts out with the fact that Samuel was old. All his life he had shown a stable attachment to God. He stood on the Rock. And whenever Israel felt disturbed or uneasy - they went to Samuel. He was the person they trusted for they knew who Samuel trusted in - his heavenly Father.
Sad to say, Samuel's sons didn't follow his example. I want to be clear, the Bible doesn't say they were murderous men. The Scriptures say something quite different. They were greedy men. Let's look at how the Hebrew translates three specific words in today's text.
The first word is "lucre," which means "unjust gain, covetousness, dishonest profit." The second word is "bribes." In the Hebrew this term is described as a "donation or reward for certain action." And finally, I want to look at the phrase, "perverted judgment" which means to "bend away a right or privilege." This phrase directly implies that God's rules were "bent away" and replaced with what these two sons of Samuel thought was right. I would like to point out that just because Joel and Abiah were judges in Israel, didn't mean their "judgments" were above God's.
If you had money, you were able to bend the laws and with donations and rewards, pay those whom you wanted to influence to do whatever suited you. The rich got what they wanted and if you were poor, you had no voice for in this Israelite society, money talked.
I ask you, "Does this sound any different than the world we live in?" If you and I ever get the silly idea that Bible stories were only for people "back then," think again.
Don't forget, this story wasn't about politicians who were bought-off, it's about God's pastors who were the "judges" of the flock, who were paid off, accepting donations and then bending the rules. The reason this is so important is that once greed got into the work of God's servants, justice and mercy took a nose dive. With money ruling the day, fairness and goodness didn't stand a chance.
The novelist George Eliot, who was really a woman named Mary Anne Evans, in her story entitled, Felix Holt penned these profound words that describe what happens when we allow selfishness and greed to rule our world, "You are discontented with the world because you can't get just the small things that suit your pleasure, not because it's a world where myriads of men and women are ground by wrong and misery, and tainted with pollution."
After reading this I had to ask myself, "How often do I get annoyed that some little ‘want' I have isn't satisfied when so many people are suffering without the necessities they ‘need' to survive?"
It seems that at the time of Samuel, his sons fell prey to the longing for more. A longing that strikes all of us, no matter what we do or don't have. Samuel's two boys, judges of God, decided to use their position and power to garner donations and then bend the rules for those who paid the price.
Tomorrow, we will see where this kind of lack of spiritual leadership led God's children and it isn't going to be a pretty sight - especially for God's daughters.
May we think long and hard about those things that we allow to be the motivators in our lives. As one so eloquently wrote, "Let your riches consist, not in the largeness of your possessions, but in the fewness of your wants."
"Lord, I am part of the tension and injustice of the world. Forgive our human selfishness, to which I contribute; heal the resentment between people, of which I am a part; and come into the world's conflicts, in which I share by being human. Take my unworthiness and sorrow, and use them in Your great work of healing and redeeming humanity."
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is now available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You can also go to www.whenawomanmeetsjesus.com and purchase the book through Paypal for $10.00.
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