By Lyn Weston, reprinted from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.’ When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.I Kings 21:15-16
I think it’s fair to say that Ahab is right up there in winning the worst king in the history of the nation of Israel award. To add to such a reputation, he’s married to Jezebel, who’s arguably even worse than him. Jezebel and Ahab collaborate in their wickedness and greed, combining their positions of power to commit an outrageous property grab.
Ahab is king and is living in his palace. Next door lives Naboth who owns a very nice vineyard. Ahab sees how lovely it is and wants the convenience of having a garden next to the palace, so he approaches Naboth and offers a good deal for the land. The problem is that this vineyard is part of Naboth’s inheritance, and he refuses to sell or trade. Power takes over and greed raises its ugly head, and Ahab is not merely disappointed, but bitter and angry.
In Ahab, we see a man of great power who has everything he could want or need; yet he wants more and what belongs to someone else. Those close to him do not challenge him, but rather lead him further into exerting power for self-gain. Jezebel conspires to have Naboth stoned and killed on trumped-up charges and the king takes the land.
We live in a society which so often encourages us to get what we want when we want it because we deserve it. Money, power and status can drive us to a place where we lack a sense of contentment unless we get exactly what we yearn for. I wonder if we ever respond like Ahab. Do we get angry and bitter when we don’t get our way? How far would we be prepared to go? Would we stop at a good old sulk? Would we cheat, even just a tiny bit, to satisfy that burning desire? And just how much might we sacrifice to get it?
It may not be something material – it might be over-exerting our position at work to take responsibility away from another. And perhaps in doing this, like Ahab, we justify our actions because we convince ourselves it’s what’s needed on this occasion. Selfishness and greed can creep in and become addictive, often without us really noticing. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul lays out the challenge for us, which is learning to be content ‘whatever the circumstances’ alongside the encouragement of knowing that we can do all things through him who gives us strength.