Stumbling on Molehills

When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar.

  • 1 Kings 2:28

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

“Joab withstood the greatest test of his life, remaining absolutely loyal to David by not turning to follow after the fascinating and ambitious Absalom. Yet toward the end of his life he turned to follow after the weak and cowardly Adonijah. Always remain alert to the fact that where one person has turned back is exactly where anyone may be tempted to turn back (see 1 Corinthians 10:11-13). You may have just victoriously gone through a great crisis, but now be alert about the things that may appear to be the least likely to tempt you. Beware of thinking that the areas of your life where you have experienced victory in the past are now the least likely to cause you to stumble and fall.”

  • Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Chambers makes it seem as an inconsistency in Joab’s character when considering 1 Kings 2:28.  Absalom was the handsome one with long hair.  He was the pretty boy and he knew it.  He rebelled against his father, King David, and for a while had taken over the kingdom with a lot of support.  Adonijah had some support, but his rebellion occurred near the end of David’s life.  He did not rebel as much against David as king as he did about David’s decision to have Solomon as the next king.  I think this distinction is what caused Joab to side with Adonijah versus Solomon.  The fight was over the successor as opposed to King David himself.

Could it be possible that Joab could never forgive his king for having slept with Uriah’s wife and then having Uriah killed?  That could be another factor, but Solomon was younger than Adonijah, and there was the tradition of the oldest ascending to the throne.  Yet, the Bible has a few notable exceptions:  Jacob over Esau; the tribe of Judah over his three older brothers, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi; Ephraim over Manasseh; David over his older brothers; and now Solomon over his older brothers.

Regardless of Joab’s reason(s), he joined Adonijah and lost his life as a result.  One might hardly think of this as a ‘temptation,’ but that would be considering this issue of the ascension to the throne as being a worldly matter instead of the Godly matter, a decision made by David who was influenced by the Holy Spirit.  As a Godly matter, this was indeed a temptation for Joab.

We have a lot of things that make good business sense, and we do them, but should we?  Was the business decision what God wanted?  Those who can compartmentalize between work, home, and belief may be praised in the business world, but all three of those are God’s domain.  To shield the voice saying to not go down that road is to succumb to temptation.

I am sure that I have made many wrong decisions, because God would have handled this issue or that concern differently.  I tried to listen to that inner voice, but I am certain that I have not in all cases, maybe a lot of them.  Some things are obvious.  If you take one path, you do harm to the customer, even cheating the customer by price gouging.

When my first real boss at my last job left the company and a new boss combined his group with ours, it was up to me to teach my new boss not only what we did and how we did our job technically, but I had to justify our financial practices.  The new boss demanded that I justify each estimated number (choice of hotels, maintenance costs, man-hours, etc.).  As a result, he cut the price of our services by over half.  He thought it was price gouging.  I argued that this reduction would lessen the value of our technical knowledge, what we were really selling, among the customers.  The company would make less profit.  And the demonstration equipment that I maintained with duct tape and chewing gum would have no funds against which to make serious repair.  He was incensed by my argument.  “You call yourself a Christian, yet you cheat the customer!!”  I replied that I simply needed money for those contingencies.

As a result, the price was lowered.  The customers who had paid twice as much felt cheated and went elsewhere in the future – even with the reduced price, and the prospective customers felt the services had no worth, so they did not buy.  Everything that I told the new boss that would happen, happened.  Then, because the profit margins were a lot lower, some of the repairs to the equipment were ignored.  The equipment was unsafe to operate when the new boss left, with the next boss having to make a major overhaul out of company overhead, getting undue corporate attention.  One bad decision after another, but I justified the price as not being unfair to the customer based on good judgment.

Yet, I had another boss who cheated a customer on one of my jobs, billing the customer for 50% more than what was justified.  I let this boss know that I did not work that way.  He let me know that if I didn’t work his way, I would not be working.  He was laid off when I was, not long afterward.

Temptations come in all sizes.  They can be $40,000 of overcharge to a customer on a fairly small job, or the temptation could be drinking another beer before going home.  The temptation could be saying a derogatory thing to someone.

The key is that if you listened to God on the massive overcharging and gave the customer a fair price, Chambers is saying that you are then in danger of drinking that extra beer before going home.  We focus on the big things.  We celebrate our resistance to temptation instead of God’s working within us to avoid temptation.  Then we ignore the little things.

It’s like when you race the high hurdles, clearing each hurdle in the race and winning.  Then you stumble over a mole hill on the way to the medal stand and fall flat of your face.

When you watch an old episode of the Dick Van Dyke show, he trips over a piece of furniture at the beginning of each episode, until he doesn’t.  Yet, I do not think that I am alone in that I have tripped over a “nothing” in the middle of the floor.  You go back over the floor carefully.  Everything is even, smooth, level, no rough edges.  Yet, you stumbled over a “nothing.”

When it comes to temptation, let’s not overlook the “nothings” and focus on the big stuff.  With each transgression along the way that don’t seem to be significant, the significance of our relationship with Jesus could be less as well.  A legalist will work toward not yielding to temptation ever.  But a faithful follower of Jesus understands that the Holy Spirit is his Guide and he will strive toward strengthening his relationship with God.  Both may result in the same behavior, but for different, and significant, reasons.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

2 Comments

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  1. atimetoshare.me May 1, 2019 — 10:09 am

    Great thought once again!

    Liked by 1 person

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