Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Was Solomon's request the best?

The study of Ecclesiastes has brought me down a new path of least it's new to me! And I think it's applicable to every believer. Here's how it goes, and I've shortened it from the original (didn't want to bore anyone!), so if it travels fast, that's why.

Solomon had phenomenal wisdom; people traveled from other lands to visit with him because they had heard of the wonderful wisdom that God had given him. And yet, he wandered from God. How could he do so if he was so wise? Had he asked for the best thing from God, or just a good thing?
Jesus was asked what was the first and greatest commandment, and in response He said, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Mt 22:34-40) In 1 John we are told repeatedly that if we don’t love our brother we can’t love God either (1 Jn 2:9-11, 15-16; 3:10, 15-18; 4:8, 20-21). If we don’t love God, we are surely lost! These two greatest commandments are crucial if we are to walk as Jesus walked (1 Jn 2:6). Solomon chose better than many would have, but perhaps if he had asked God for better love for God and man, instead of for wisdom, then he would have stayed true to God to the end. He would have ended up having both, because God gives wisdom to anyone who seeks it (James 1:5), and loving God well, Solomon would have sought it. With love and wisdom combined, he wouldn’t have acquired a household of 1,000 foreign women to drag him down!
I have a hard time evaluating how well I love the difficult people in my life; and there’s always room for improvement. Jesus says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Mt. 5:46) It is clearly not enough to love just the fun, the clever, the rich, the kind, and the beautiful people. We have to love the crusty, the inconsiderate, the ugly, the poor, the slow, the boring, the sinful people! But do we? Perhaps you've heard of reading 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 using one’s own name in the place of “love” (especially with one of our less favorite people in mind) to try to evaluate where love is and isn’t so well manifested. A similar thing can be done with each fruit of the Spirit (--- is loving, --- is joyful, --- is peaceful…). That can be convicting and yet, we can do more. We have been given one very promising resource to help improve one’s love for God and man. Solomon spoke with God and God was pleased to give him wisdom according to his request (1 Kings 3:10). How much more in God’s will can we be than to request a better love for God and neighbors, when those are His greatest commandments? James 4:3 says that God doesn’t answer our prayers when we pray with wrong motives; we can expect the inverse to be true as well—if we pray with right motives and a clean heart, we can expect Him to answer. He’s our Father and every good gift is from Him (James 1:17); He longs to give His children good things (Luke 11:11). So it just makes sense to ask Him to teach us to love better, and that He might point out where we’re failing. I’ve been praying some of that lately and as a result, realizing a few things (I’m sure I’m just scratching the surface) that I expect will improve my relationship to God and man. I sure don’t want those verses in 1 John to apply to me

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