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When Greed Destroys
By Gordon MacDonald

Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.” But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers. So Ahab went home, sullen and angry. 1 Kings 21:2-4

There are stories in the Bible that are both offensive and disturbing. Offensive because they show people in the course of ugly behavior; disturbing because we sometimes see ourselves in the plot line. The tale of Ahab and Naboth is a case in point. Watch him (and his wife, Jezebel) in motion, and you get a vivid picture of what you don’t want to be.

Ahab was a man who had virtually everything. And yet, it wasn’t enough. The king wanted to deal with Naboth for the man’s vineyard. Ahab thought he was being reasonable, willing to exchange it for a better vineyard, or even for cash. But Naboth would not budge. The land belonged in the family. No deal.

So what did Ahab do? “He lay on his bed sulking,” the Bible says of Ahab, “ and refused to eat.” Here was a man addicted to stuff. His power and wealth had shaped his soul, and he no longer understood the meaning of no. The world revolved around Ahab’s desires, and it was inconceivable that someone would deny him what he wanted.

Before we express our contempt for this foolish man, we must pause and ask, “Does the spirit of Ahab ever control my soul?” Chances are that it has and that it will.

Jezebel was no help. A good spouse—just like a good friend—would have confronted Ahab with the overwhelming force of tough love. She could have rebuked him for his greed, his covetousness, his childish sulking. If she had truly loved him, and had been a godly woman, she wouldn’t have rested until Ahab had examined his heart and repented.

Instead, she launched a scurrilous plot to get Ahab what he wanted. The wicked plot soon worked its evil spell: Naboth was dead, the vineyard was Ahab’s, and everyone was a bit diminished morally because of the greed gone out of control.

Wise are those who read this story very carefully, milk it for every drop of character instruction, and look for the Ahab (or the Jezebel) in themselves.

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