Money, Sex and Power

The Physicist Isaac Newton discovered our modern understanding of a ‘Force’ in natural physics. The Old Testament prince–Solomon the seventh son of King David–understood that, just like a force in the natural world of science, social forces like money, sex, and power do no stop until they face an equal or greater force that opposes them.

When God’s Spirit shows up, Solomon, the prince who will be king, asks for the wisdom to understand how to oppose these three forces of our world: money, sex, and power.

Online Sunday Worship Service, Faith United Church, Courtice ON CA, August 15, 2021

Please follow the link for a 15 minute story about what a king needs to do to lead for God. (see full written text below FB Broadcast).


Timestamps:

Children’s message about Genies granting wishes: Time stamp 19:03

Sunday Message: God Appears to Solomon: Time Stamp 30:54

Kids Time: “God Ain’t No Genii”

Hey kids, did you get to see the ‘Aladdin’ movie with Will Smith as the Genie? Or what about the animated ‘Aladdin’ movie with Robin Williams as the Genie? One lamp, unlimited possibilities, never works out, right? Still, it’s fun.

We all love to dream and have our wishes come true, but the funny thing is that wishes never really turn out right, do they? People always seem to wish for the wrong things I guess. I mean, what do we really want out of life?  

The movie with Will Smith is three years old, now, but the cartoon with Robin Williams is thirty years old…ten times older! 

And that move is about a story that’s three thousand years old!  

The story is always kind of the same, isn’t it? In the Disney movies, Aladdin finds out that he didn’t need the genie after all, because he had everything he needed right inside his heart.  Still, it’s fun to meet a genii. 

In an even older version, it isn’t a genii, but a magic fairy, like Tinkerbell. In that version, a poor old couple save a fairy from a trap, and the fairy agrees to give them three wishes.  The couple is so hungry that one partner asks if they could for pancakes and syrup.   

But asking about turns out to be wishing, and a giant pancake covered in syrup falls right in front of them in the dirt.  They’re so disappointed, that the other partner asks for dozens of pancakes covered in syrup, so they could eat them, and dozens of pancakes fall on the partner’s head.   

The partner can’t see, and can’t talk, so the other partner wishes the pancakes would just go away. By the end of it, they’re right back where they were, but happy that they don’t have to fight with pancakes anymore! 

Later today we’re going to read a story from the Bible that’s an awful lot like the three wishes story.  Just like a Genie or a fairy, God shows up just when a young and inexperienced king needs help the most.  But God doesn’t grant wishes, and God doesn’t play tricks.  God looks into Solomon’s heart and gives the king what the king needs most, because that’s what God is like.  God loves us, and cares for us, and meets our needs when we need God most.  

God: a better friend than a genie with a magic lamp, every time.

WE LISTEN FOR GOD’S WORD

Scripture Reading – 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14

2:10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 

2:11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 

2:12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established. 

3:3 Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 

3:4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 

3:5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 

3:6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 

3:7 And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 

3:8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 

3:9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” 

3:10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 

3:11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 

3:12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 

3:13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 

3:14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

Message: “Money, Sex, and Power”

Money, Sex, and Power.

No, I’m not talking about the unnamed HBO sequel to Game of Thrones.

And no, I’m also not talking about the three paragraphs of Donald Trump’s Presidential resume.

Money, Sex and Power is the title of a book by the Christian author Richard J Foster, that explains how these three forces drive our society.  Centuries ago, Isaac Newton explained what we already know about driving forces: once they are set in motion, forces continue along the same trajectory and even increase in power until they collide with an equal or greater opposing force.   

In his book, Richard J. Foster observes that these three forces, money, sex and power appear unstoppable in our personal lives and in our public spaces.  Want proof?  Turn on your TV.  Or, again, I refer you to Donald Trump’s Presidential resume. Ever since Gordon Gekko bragged that “Greed is Good” in the 1987 film Wall Street, the unfettered, unapologetic, and audacious concentration of wealth and power into the hands of fewer and fewer elites has continued as a driving force that has done nothing but accelerate.  

Like young Solomon in the passage we just read, we need God’s wisdom to respond to the excesses of money, sex and power that have become the driving forces of our world.

__________

In many ways, our situation mirrors the passage we read about today. In this passage, we meet Solomon at the very beginning of his reign, and in the very first action that he takes as King of Israel.

Now, through the advantages of history and hindsight, we know that this young man will be remembered as one of the greatest kings of the Hebrew scriptures, as one of the wisest rulers in history, and as a prophet recognized in three of the world’s major religious faiths.   

But in the passage that we just read, we find a very different Solomon.  Inexperienced, uncertain, and alone, this young King Solomon is afraid.  And he should be.  Solomon never planned to be king, and no one—and I mean no one, not even Solomon himself—ever expected that he would be the next king.   

Solomon’s older brothers, the six legitimate princes born from the six legitimate queens, had been fighting over their succession rights for years.  All of them wanted to be king, and they fought each other for the privilege to succeed David on the throne.   

All of the surviving older brothers and all of the legitimate queens simply assumed that Solomon would die young and alone, yet another victim of violence and revenge. 

You see, Solomon’s very existence as the seventh son in the Royal family was a constant embarrassment to the rest of the royal family.  Solomon’s presence was a living reminder of King David’s infidelity, of King David’s coerced sexual liaison with Bathsheba, and of King David’s proxy murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah the Hittite.   

In the years after the scandal that rocked the Kingdom, Bathsheba continued to live as part of David’s Royal Household, and she bore David four of his ten sons.  So, with six previous—and legal—royal wives, with six older half-brothers all fighting to become king, Solomon was despised the living and breathing evidence of King David’s own abuse of the money, sex, and power that had been entrusted to him by God.  And the sooner Solomon was dead the better it would be for everyone else.   

The rest of the family wanted Solomon dead, and Bathsheba knew it.  She knew that the next king would kill Bathsheba and her children to erase the stain of David’s sin from the royal family’s lineage. Bathsheba asks David to name Solomon as his successor, so that Solomon, Bathsheba, and her other children can simply survive. 

In the passage that we read today, Solomon prays alone. And now, we know why.

Solomon has no experience in leadership, no support in the military, and no allies at court. Beyond the court, Solomon has no public supporters at all. With this backstory firmly in mind, we gain a new perspective on Solomon’s prayer. Let’s take a closer look, then, at the desperate prayer of a desperate man.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

In a theophany, the Spirit of God promises Solomon anything he wants.  Now that we understand his situation a little better, we wouldn’t have faulted Solomon if he had been a tad selfish.    

Solomon could have asked for a sudden bounty of wealth, so that he could buy loyalty.  He could have asked for safe passage to Egypt, where he might live out the remainder of his days in an exile of hedonistic ecstasy.  He could have asked for an army of warriors so that he fight back, conquer the Israelite throne, and rule by force.  But he didn’t.  Solomon didn’t ask for money, or for sex, or for power.  He asked for advice.  

In Chapter 3 verse nine Solomon says, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil, for who can govern this, your great people?” 

“Who can govern this, your great people?”  Well, given the back story, we can all agree that ‘Not him’ would probably be the right answer.   

Solomon is in no position to govern this great people. He’s too young, too inexperienced, and too vulnerable. But Solomon’s question shows insight. The truth is that the other contenders are questionable as well.

Who can govern this, God’s great people?

Not Absolom, King David’s rebellious son whose death broke King David’s heart.

Not Adonijah, Solomon’s elder half-brother who is so popular with the priests, the civic leaders and the public.

Who can govern this, God’s great people? Not even King David himself, God’s chosen and anointed one, whose failure in leadership echoes through the ages.

No one is equipped to lead a nation, not then, and not now. At some point, despite their best intentions, despite their hopes their campaign promises and their previous successes in life, all leaders fall short, and die, having succumbed eventually to the temptations of leadership that force their decisions: money, sex, and power.

Speaking out of his lived experience, Solomon understands all that. Solomon’s wisdom begins with this realization. He has, after all, seen it, close-up. He has lived it. He understands that leaders need a special gift from God. Let’s take a closer look, then, at Solomon’s request, and at God’s response. Let’s check back with the passage again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

In verse 9 Solomon asks: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind”.  And that’s good.   

In verse 11 the Spirit confirms the request, re-stating that Solomon has “asked for himself understanding to discern what is right”.   

And that’s good.  Request sent by Solomon, request received and acknowledged by the Spirit of God. 

Solomon asked for an understanding mind, and God gave Solomon the understanding to discern what is right.  But the two statements aren’t really the same, are they?  

If we dig a little deeper, we can see that this difference is greater than we first thought.  God gave Solomon understanding, but God gave even more, something Solomon was not expecting.   

In his request, Solomon uses a very specific Hebrew word that translates into the English word “understand.” Solomon asks God to give him “Shawmeh,” a word that carries the connotations of listening with careful attention and responding with complete obedience.   

The Hebrew scriptures, though, have more than one word that translates as ‘understanding’, and two different words appear here.   

Although Solomon asks for ‘shawmeh’ understanding, the Spirit responds with a different word for ‘understanding’, the word ‘bin’.  And these words have very different connotations 

Shawmeh refers to an understanding that includes comprehension and leads to obedience. 

Bin refers to an understanding that includes perception and prudence, and that leads to discernment.  

Sometimes, we need to understand so that we can obey.  At other times, we need to understand so that we can make informed decisions.   

Solomon asked for comprehension to obey like a servant, but God gave Solomon insight so that he could discern like a son.   

And so it is with us today. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

All of us, at different times, understand Solomon.  All of us, in different seasons of our lives, hide alone in the shadows, praying that God would just tell us the right thing to do, promising that, once we know the right thing to do, once we understand with the incomprehensible God of the Universe really wants, that we will obey.  And we mean it.   

But God does not see us alone crouching in the dark.  God sees us as a child of God’s kingdom, a royal heir to the throne of heaven, who has yet to realize that the love of God, the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of Jesus Christ have been shed abroad in our hearts 

We are children of God most high, and, just as King David’s blood ran in Solomon’s veins, so also the Blood of Christ runs in ours.  We are not servants of God, we are part of God’s family, tricked into believing that we need to hide in the shadows to survive.   

Certainly, the driving forces of this age, money, sex, and power, continue to get all the attention, but the Holy Spirit and our Life in Jesus Christ is still powerful, hidden in earthen vessels that look like you and me.  God has given us the wisdom to discern our calling in life, and the courage to make it happen.   

You, child of God, you have been called to stand against the forces of money, sex, and power that seek to destroy our world through money, sex, and power.  You, filled with the life and the joy of the Holy Spirit, you and me, and other believers throughout the earth, we are the equal and opposing force that God has sent out into the world.   

So today, the spirit of God encourages you  and me, all of us to be filled with the fruit of the spirit, the love, the joy, the peace, the patience, the goodness, kindness and self-control of God’s presence in the world and to be the light that others need to see so that they can step out of their darkness, too.   

Solomon was already a prince.  Solomon was already a child of the King.  Solomon was already ordained to lead, but it took the discernment of the Spirit to bring that light of understanding into his life. 

And so it is with us.  We are, each one of us, already children of the King.  We are, each one of us, already enlivened by the Holy Spirit.  We are, every one of us, already the body and the mind of Christ in the world.   

Join with me, friends.  Let’s step out into the sunshine, and share the love, the joy and the freedom of life in God’s spirit with all of God’s Kingdom. 

Amen.

Responsive Prayer:

Loving God,

You hold all that you have created within your compassionate embrace.

As you hold our lives, our sorrows, our pain, and even our hatred within your aching heart,  

We cry out for wholeness—for ourselves, for those we love, and for our world. 

May your healing presence gently transform the places of our lives where we hold pain. 

May your loving presence be a comforting reality for all those who find themselves in despair, or lost, or alone. 

May your transforming presence create generosity in place of greed, harmony in place of hatred, and everlasting justice where evil now reigns.   

Oh God, lover of the world, from the silence of our own hearts we bring before you these people, these places, and these situations that need your healing, loving and transforming presence.

Oh Loving God, this is your world, and we claim your power and presence to make it whole, and we ask that you honour our prayers as we pray in the name of the One true leader of the church, Jesus the Christ, our Lord,

Amen.

Benediction: And finally, Beloved,

May God bless you and keep you,

May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you 

May God look upon you with kindness and give you peace.  

Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~


Youtube video provided courtesy of Faith United Church, Courtice Ontario in Canada.

Citation:

Ferris, Doug. “Money, Sex, and Power.” Faith United Church in Courtice, August 15, 2021.

Doug Ferris, Sunday Service Guest Speaker: Youtube, August 15, 2021. https://youtu.be/2Pok0eEyvdU?t=1800

Published by dougferris.ca

Doug is a writer, musician and educator living near Toronto, Canada. He writes about the sacredness of everyday experiences and about living a life of spiritual faith in the 'postmodern' 21st Century world. After a a 25-year career in education, Doug has been approved as a Candidate for Ordained Ministry in the United Church of Canada, a uniquely Canadian Protestant denomination in the Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregationalist traditions. Doug is in essential agreement with the UCC statements on doctrine, which he sees as being in substance agreeable to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. Opinions expressed on dougferris.ca are his own.

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