Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Friday, June 14, 2013

Naboth's Vineyard: How much for your soul?

Text verse
 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Mark 8:36-37

How much do you want for your soul this evening?  What do you want in exchange for your soul?

Ahab’s soul had a price…just one vineyard.
Our reading picks up with Ahab asking a neighbour to trade or sell him a piece of land.  Naboth had a vineyard next to Ahab’s country palace in Jezreel.  But the vineyard was actually the property of the extended family.  Naboth was obviously the oldest and most senior member of the clan, but he would not sell the land because that would destroy the future security of the children of is clan.

So he answers the king, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”  
Ahab reacted to this refusal like a spoilt child.  He went home sad and angry, refused to eat until his behaviour attracted the attention of his wife, Jezebel. 

You might remember that she was a foreign princess, probably from a culture where all the land belonged to the King and was only leased to the people.  She either did not know or refused to accept the Law of Israel that clearly stated that “the king must not consider himself better than his brothers.”  [Deuteronomy 17:18-20]

Jezebel and Ahab stand for that class of people who believe that power and authority give licence to treat others abusively; to exploit them. 

Imagine how our nation’s history would be different if people in power didn’t believe they could exploit other people.

Apartheid was based on the abuse of power and the exploitation of people........ 
The corruption in our nation today is based on the abuse of power and the exploitation of people.

Jezebel has Naboth murdered while her husband does nothing and says nothing.  His silence lends his full support to her abusive, exploitative actions.  Your and my silence often lends our support to the abusive, exploitative powers that members remain silent,..............neighbours “mind their own business”.....and keep silent…................people in the workplace “mind their own business”........and keep silent…  People in nations keep silent.......................Silence has a price!

How much for your soul?
God calls His prophet to confront the king.  This is called “speaking truth to power” and it happens many times in Scripture…just one other example will suffice:  The prophet Nathan confronts another king, David, “a man after God’s own heart” after David commits adultery, steals another man’s wife and murders her husband.

Speaking truth to power…it is scary and dangerous, and seldom makes one popular.

When Ahab saw Elijah approaching, he cried: “Have you found me, O my enemy?”  To a guilty conscience, a prophet of God always looks like an enemy.  “I have found you” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

Remember, Ahab had actually done nothing…all he has done  is…remain silent while someone else did evil. 
But in his silence he sold his soul............... for a vineyard.

How much for your soul?  
We can lose possession of our souls without selling them outright.  We may gradually lose possession of our souls by mortgaging them.  Somebody “gets something” on us and it gives them a hold over us.  We cannot be our true self in their presence because they will “tell-on” and then I might lose my job…or not be considered for soul is mortgaged to the person who "has something over me". 

How often do we sell our souls, just so that people will like us?  I won’t speak for your line of work, but for my “line of work” it is so easy to think, “I’m pastor of a congregation and mustn’t I seek to give the message in a way that people will accept?”  Our concern for acceptability can lead us to soften the truth.  To be a servant of one’s congregation and also a prophet of one’s God is no easy task.  But this applies in all situations:
Remember, we are all called to be God’s prophets, God’s representatives, God’s spokesperson, wherever we find ourselves, so......
To be a servant of one’s parents or children and a prophet of God is no easy task.....
To be a servant of one’s boss and also a prophet of God is no easy task......  
To be a servant of one’s teachers & principal and also a prophet of God is no easy task......  To be a servant of one’s nation, a good citizen, and a prophet of God is no easy task.
In ethics this "problem" is called the problem of dual loyalties and it can tempt us to sell our souls.

How much for your soul…how much for mine? 
What will we pay, what are we paying to keep our jobs; keep our spouse?  
What are we paying to “keep the peace?” ........ There are so many ways we sell our soul.

Ahab sold his soul by keeping silent in the midst of his wife's abuse of her power.  Some of our politicians know how to be silent in 3 or 4 different languages.  Another way we sell our souls is by claiming to have the interests of others at heart.  “I have a wife and children to think about.”

Most of us are members of families.  How can we follow our own clear line of duty without sacrificing the interests of those who lean on us?  How can big businesses be loyal to employees, stockholders and the general public?  How can we be loyal to the country that protects us and yet not sell our souls by participating in government programs that seem wrong to us?

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?  Mark 8:36-37

Our guiding principle is to have a sovereign loyalty which heads the hierarchy of our other loyalties.  Jesus insisted that His followers put Him and His Kingdom first.
“He that loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of Me.”  
Matthew 10:37

There may be times when our loyalty to Christ seems to cause hardship on members of our families.  There may come times (and many of us have lived through such times in South Africa) when the conscientious follower of Christ seems to run counter to what the majority of our countrymen think is good citizenship.

But in the long run, the person who uses their best ability in being loyal to Jesus, will never be a bad father or mother, a bad spouse, or a bad patriot.

Those who follow Christ to the end never feel that they have sold their souls.

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