The tale of envy and spite in the story relayed in 1 Kings is abominable to most of us. How could any person ever do that, even if it is not their child?
Yet, there are far too many tragic stories of people treating their children—their legacy—with something beyond contempt. The children don’t meet a “need”, or even worse, the death of the child meets the “need”.
The amazing depravity of humanity is often overwhelming.
In the story in 1 Kings, there is probably much more than the visible story. Why it was significant to the writer that the women were prostitutes was significant is a matter of conjecture. With something like that we can only guess what else might have been going on.
One possibility is that the “wise men” didn’t want to deal with the “dirty” prostitutes on a case with no evidence or witnesses (like those who might have been present at the birth or circumcision). So, they handed it off to the new king to test him. This would be well within the norm even today when new figures come into power, they are tested by ally and enemy alike.
To our ears, Solomon’s solution is over the top. Kill the child? However, some commentators believe that Solomon had discerned who the real mother was and was looking for a justifiable pretext of giving her son to her.
The story also shines a light on one of the big human issues: envy. There is a reason that this was on the list of Commandments. It can often be one of the most destructive emotions in human relationships.
Envy drove a grieving woman to grasp for another’s baby and then be open to the child’s death instead of “losing”. Envy drove a person to sacrifice a child to hurt another person.
Envy drives people to do things that are often not rational. Sometimes people will put themselves into so much debt so that they can be just like others. Other times they will hurt themselves, as long as they can hurt others.
No one is immune to the pull of envy. We often think envy is only for big things, but envy is even more dangerous regarding small things. It is easy to excuse or justify the envy of little things. However, once we succumb, envy gains momentum, and our hearts turn toward darkness, and away from love.
Holy Spirit, guard our hearts against envy. If the shadow of envy had taken hold, we ask for your saving work to preserve your love in our hearts. Amen.
1) What is the first “don’t” of love, according to Paul? Why do you think Paul mentioned that first?
2) What was the strongest feeling of envy you’ve ever had? What happened?
3) What is the “flip” side of envy? Or, how is one driven to envy? (hint: see Paul’s list)