Bible Studies
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Sunday, 31 October 2004

King Ahab of Israel and his wicked queen Jezebel wickedly conspired to seize the vinyard of a citizen named Naboth.  The time and place may be different, but the principles of greed and abuse of power remain the same today.  Read on and see what happened to Ahab and Jezebel, and which by implication may happen to oppressors today as they fall under the judgment of God.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain, when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wondered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.

I Tim. 6:6-10 (NASB)

First Kings 21:1-22 details how powerful King Ahab of Israel coveted a small vineyard owned by a landholder named Naboth. Ahab desired the land for a vegetable garden since it was adjacent to palace grounds. He offered either to purchase or trade for the land, but Naboth, citing inheritance strictures, refused. Thus deflated, Ahab returned in desolation to his palace, where he sought solace from Queen Jezebel (Yes, that one). Jezebel, even more wicked than Ahab, contrived a treacherous plot to gain the vineyard by proclaiming a ritual fast for elders and nobles of the city, seating Naboth there in a place of honor, then hiring two nefarious characters to publicly accuse him of treason. As was customary for suspected traitors, Naboth was stoned to death, allowing Jezebel to present Ahab with the coveted vineyard.

But God, not willing that the royal pair should escape punishment for their duplicity, commissioned the prophet Elijah to express the Lord’s displeasure, promising that "in the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, there also shall dogs lick up your blood." The prophet also pronounced God’s judgment upon Ahab’s entire house because he had made Israel to sin, and upon Jezebel, who had instigated the evil plot.

So here we have rich, arrogant, powerful rulers using treachery, deceit, and murder to satisfy their lust for increasing possessions. When they couldn’t satisfy themselves legally, they placed themselves above the law by turning away from truth and justice toward injustice and oppression to achieve their ends.

If this sounds to you like what so often happens today, perhaps that’s because it is. No, the covetousness by powerful people isn’t for small holding like vineyards—it’s for whole corporations and industries, control over legislative bodies, access to presidents and rulers, monopoly power over vast natural resources, ever-increasing ability to manipulate global production and commerce, and personal wealth and trappings beyond imagination. Compared to this all-encompassing greed, Ahab’s covetousness was small potatoes.

What’s the moral or ethical difference between what Ahab and Jezebel did and what occurs now as rich, powerful multi-national corporations savage the poor of the earth in the name of ever-increasing growth and profits? And who besides a few prophets, some radicalized student groups, and various oppressed indigenous people even thinks to complain? Most of us just collect our dividends and interest payments in virtual ignorance of how much of this money is derived.

But it’s the principle of the thing that matters, isn’t it? So what can people be thinking when their greed destroys not only individuals and small groups such as farmers and artisans, but even entire nations? What arguments can powerful forces of globalism use to justify their trampling upon the poor of many nations?

Increased efficiency is the usual justification given for whatever perversions and dislocations come to light. Efficiency covers a multitude of sin! The economic concept behind efficiency as it manifests itself in cries for reduced tariffs and increased world trade is called comparative advantage, meaning that global wealth would be maximized if everyone produced what they are most efficient at producing, and traded for everything else. As a pure economic concept it makes good sense.

But the problem with efficiency, as with so many major economic goals, is that it has no heart or feelings, nor does it value anything other than profit and loss. There is no personal side to the goal of efficiency. The easy answer is that human suffering under this system will be short and limited, and will tend to disappear as productive resources transfer to where they are most needed. This may be true of capital, which can flow around the earth with the stroke of a computer key; and possibly for some types of management, which can be computerized and readily distributed.  But what of workers and laborers, who cannot be easily uprooted because of cultural, familial, and legal issues?

As Ahab and Jezebel had no feelings for weak and insignificant Naboth, so do current forces of globalism ignore the weak and powerless.in every land. If American farmers can produce genetically engineered corn more cheaply than can Mexican peasants, why should not American corn replace locally grown corn in Mexico? Who cares for the peasants who lose most of their source of income, if American agri-business corporations can increase their profits? Not even their own government cares because it also is caught up in the global press for profits.

But there is Someone who cares. God says in Psalm 9:18 that "the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever." The call is that Christians everywhere join God in caring what happens to His creation, and lifting their voices in prayerful concern over the plight of the poor wherever they may be.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 17 November 2005 )