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And remember, the land is mine, so you may not sell it permanently. You are merely my tenants and sharecroppers! Leviticus 25:23 (TLB)

 

One day the king talked to him about selling him this land. “I wanted it for a garden” the king explained, “because it’s so convenient to the palace.” He offered cash or, if Naboth preferred, a piece of better land in trade. But Naboth replied, “Not on your life! That land has been in my family for generations.” 1 Kings 21:2-3

 

Background Scripture: 1 Kings 21:1-16

When the Israelites were about to conquer Canaan, God gave them instructions about what He expected His people’s behavior would be. God wanted His people to understand one great overriding principle—that the land they were about to conquer wouldn’t be their property, but God’s. They were stewards, not owners; caretakers, not lords.

When Israel conquered the land, it was distributed to the tribes. Each family received a piece of land, but they knew it wasn’t theirs. They received land to rule over it, to work it, but the owner was the Creator of the Heavens and of the Earth. About seven centuries after the distribution of the Promised Land there was a man named Naboth. He lived under the ruling of King Ahab. In fact he was a neighbor of King Ahab, in Jezreel, where the king had his summer palace.

Nowadays we would say that Naboth was the landlord of a wonderful vineyard in Jezreel, but he didn’t think that way, because he knew the real landlord was God. He’d been privileged to tend it.

However, King Ahab didn’t think the same way. Ahab was one of those Israelites that thought he was really the owner, he was really the landlord of what he possessed. Ahab lied an illusion: HE THOUGHT WHAT HE POSSESSED, HE OWNED. He forgot that we came to this world naked, and we will leave it with nothing. King Ahab didn’t think the way God wanted him to think. For Ahab, the deed of all he owned was in his own name. We might say there was no trust clause in any of Ahab’s properties—or his life for that matter. It was exclusively HIS.

But Naboth had a mental trust clause in all he owned. He held it all for the rightful, true owner. Naboth was a worshipper of God, and every work he did in “his” vineyard he did as an administrator, not as the landlord. Despite that, or better because of that, Naboth took care so well of “his” vineyard that King Ahab wished the vineyard was his. One day Ahab proposed a bargain to Naboth: he offered cash or, if Naboth preferred, a piece of better land in trade. What a wonderful opportunity for Naboth to strike a good bargain, and strengthen a good relationship with his powerful neighbor, the King. A “wise” political strategy, wouldn’t we say? Who would waste such an opportunity?

Imagine Naboth as one of our clients who asked for advice. What advice would we give him? Maybe we’d even warn him if he didn’t sell, the King might just exercise some eminent domain power of the sovereign, and simply seize it. But as far as we know, Naboth didn’t ask for advice from anyone. He just refused the King’s proposal! And the reason was he wasn’t concerned about how he could please the king of Israel. His behavior didn’t depend on the king’s favor or wrath. He did depend on God’s commands and principles.

Naturally Naboth paid a price for his faithfulness to the Lord: his reputation, his own life and his family’s vineyard. From a secular perspective how foolish he was refusing a good proposal which, at the end made him lose everything. But how inspiring the faith and the faithfulness of this believer is for all of us: his courage, his spiritual insight, his love for the Landlord, and his obedience to His law.

What kind of perspective do we have about the goods God has given us to administrate? Do we think of them as ours? Do we live in Ahab’s illusion or do we have God’s perspective about them? Are we ready to pay the price it takes to be faithful to God, as Naboth did?

Lord help me to be faithful as Naboth was, to respect you as the owner of everything you have given me, and give me the wisdom to take good care of everything as a good administrator. Make me a faithful trustee of all you have provided.
Fernando Loja 
Portugal

– This article comes from AI’s “No Higher Calling,” a devotional for lawyers.

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