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Having but Not Using
Preparing for The Day of Pentecost: Three Days before Sunday (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
Old Testament: Isaiah 32:11-17
Epistle: Galatians 5:16-25
Holy God, you spoke the world into being. Pour your Spirit to the ends of the earth, that your children may return from exile as citizens of your commonwealth, and our divisions may be healed by your word of love and righteousness. Amen.
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24).
Whenever I read Paul’s comments on the fruit of the Spirit, I think of King Solomon as he is a good example of receiving a spiritual gift from God (wisdom), but not using it. It must not be missed that Paul instructs the Galatians to live by the Spirit. The Spirit may give us certain gifts, but it is up to us to use them.
When the biblical editor speaks of Solomon’s wisdom, it is a “tongue-in-cheek” comment. It is true that when God was willing to grant the king anything he wanted, he asked not for riches, but for wisdom and knowledge (1 Kings 3:1-15). There was also the incident involving the two mothers claiming the same child in which Solomon exercised profound wisdom in dealing with the situation (1 Kings 3:16-28). But this seems to be the extent of Solomon’s wise rulings. God gives Solomon the gift he asks for—wisdom, but he spends his reign, indeed, his life, failing to use the gift he has been given.
Solomon does things that God has expressly forbidden. God has insisted that his people, Israel, will not have a standing army. They are to trust completely in God. If an army is needed, God will raise it. Yet Solomon institutes a draft in order to have an army always ready to deploy.
God has forbidden marriage to foreign women, not because they are foreign, but because they bring with them their idolatrous ways. Yet Solomon marries pagan women and brings them into his harem as a symbol of his status as a king. He will later fall into pagan ways as he even sacrifices some of his own children to the god Molech.
Solomon is commanded to build the Temple, which he does, but he spends much more time and money building his palace. He overtaxes the people to pay for his building projects, he resorts to slave labor, and by the time of his death, he has spent the country into bankruptcy. Solomon, this king of Israel, who asked for and received wisdom, spent the rest of his life utilizing everything but wisdom during his reign.
God gives gifts, but it is up to those who receive God’s gifts to use them. The great tragedy of Solomon’s life was that he failed to use what God had granted him. Had he truly been a wise king, his country would not have been facing civil war at the time of his death.
Just because God gifts us doesn’t mean we will automatically use what God gives. It is a great tragedy that so many in the church have been gifted by God with talents and abilities and dispositions, and yet they do not ever reflect upon or ponder how God may wish them to use what they have received.
God gives and we have, but it does not follow logically that we will use what we have received. When we fail to use the gifts God gives, we waste God’s grace that he has lavished upon us. Too often we squander the divine provisions we receive to be faithful. Like the judge, Samson, we are given great strength in the gifts we’ve received, but somewhere along the way we come to believe that we have earned them.
Jesus tells the parable of the talents in order to remind us that it is critical to understand that what we have received is to be used for God’s glory. When I was a sophomore attending a Christian high school, our music teacher would remind us on a regular basis that talent was God’s gift to us. How we used our talent was our gift to God.
May we use what God gives in a way that, after we are gone, no one will speak tongue-in-cheek about us.
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