Can’t Be Bought

Monday, September 16, 2013 — Week of Proper 19, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalms 56, 57, (58) (morning) // 64, 65 (evening)

1 Kings 21:1-16

1 Corinthians 1:1-19

Matthew 4:1-11

It’s extraordinary to watch the world’s highest levels of power organize themselves against one person who refuses to be bought. In today’s first reading, we meet Naboth, a man who refuses to sell his vineyard to King Ahab. In the gospel reading, we see Jesus resisting the tempter’s offers of possessions and power. These men make very simple refusals that shake the world’s foundations.

In Naboth’s case, the king’s offer seems fair. Ahab wants Naboth’s vineyard because it is next to his palace and he’d like to turn the land into a vegetable garden. He will give Naboth an even better vineyard somewhere else, or some money if he’d rather take that. How reasonable of Ahab to give Naboth a good deal and a choice of what compensation package he’d prefer! But Naboth values his vineyard more highly than anything Ahab could offer, because it has been in his family for generations. The vineyard is Naboth’s ancestral inheritance. Eventually, Ahab’s wife Jezebel plots to have Naboth killed, and she tells Ahab to seize the vineyard that “he refused to give you for money.”

Every day, we face many small, seemingly reasonable temptations to accept money or the promise of something bigger and better in place of our deeper values. Consumer society presents us with great deals and many choices. The consequences of refusing may seem small, like not having the latest style or the neatest gadget. But the consequences of refusing to assign price tags to everything may also loom large: stalling in our careers, losing pace with “the Joneses,” or sacrificing an enticing opportunity.

In the case of Jesus, the temptations also seem reasonable. The devil suggests that Jesus turn stones into bread when he’s hungry. The devil backs up another temptation with Scriptural evidence. And the devil offers Jesus a place of power, from which he could probably do a lot of good. But Jesus is like Naboth: he cannot be bought. He wants to worship and serve God alone.

In today’s small moments and in the larger cruxes of our lives, we will face some tempting offers. Let us pray for the strength to confront the world’s great bargains and great options, and the world’s bigger and better opportunities, with a strong sense of values that have no cash equivalent. And let’s pray especially for the strength to bear the consequences of refusing to play by rules that the world passes off as fair.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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