1 Kings 3:4-13
King Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, since that was the greatest of the high places – Solomon offered a thousand holocausts on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon during the night. God said, ‘Ask what you would like me to give you.’ Solomon replied, ‘You showed great kindness to your servant David, my father, when he lived his life before you in faithfulness and justice and integrity of heart; you have continued this great kindness to him by allowing a son of his to sit on his throne today. Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in succession to David my father. But I am a very young man, unskilled in leadership. Your servant finds himself in the midst of this people of yours that you have chosen, a people so many its number cannot be counted or reckoned. Give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who could govern this people of yours that is so great?’ It pleased the Lord that Solomon should have asked for this. ‘Since you have asked for this’ the Lord said ‘and not asked for long life for yourself or riches or the lives of your enemies, but have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself, here and now I do what you ask. I give you a heart wise and shrewd as none before you has had and none will have after you. What you have not asked I shall give you too: such riches and glory as no other king ever had.’
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
They were like sheep without a shepherd
A friend with whom I work closely with often remarks, “People are sheep. They will do what you tell them.” He says it without arrogance, but as someone who recognises the truth of human nature. Recognising that people are sheep and will do what you tell them immediately elevates you to a position of power. Who was it who said, “With great power comes great responsibility”?
My friend, recognising the great power he has, more often than not chooses to use it in a way that benefits people and the community. Was he always like this? He will be the first to admit that he’s not a good person. He’s done lots of things that he’s ashamed of, but what impresses me is that not only does he recognise this, he also tries his best to channel this power towards responsible use.
Today’s readings make reference to Solomon and Jesus, both of whom found themselves in positions of great power. It is clear from the readings that both did not choose this path, but it was bestowed on them.
Solomon inherited from David the throne of Israel and was unsure of how to use this great power in his hands. As a young man, he sought the wisdom of the Lord to discern between good and evil. I think that anyone who has explored a course in ethics knows that Solomon did a wise thing, for good and evil is not always so clear cut. From this we can see that wisdom was already present in Solomon, and the Lord brought it forth.
In the gospel reading, Jesus wanted his disciples and him to retreat from active ministry and to rest and recuperate. But when he saw the people flocking to him like sheep without a shepherd, Jesus chose to give up his desire for retreat to teach the people.
Sometimes, like my friend, you find yourselves in positions of great power. It is very tempting to use such power for yourselves. But remember, with great power comes great responsibility. It is the Lord who allowed you to wield such power, so use it for the good of others, not just for yourselves. You might think to yourself: I’m only an office administrator; I will never have such power as Solomon or Jesus. But power comes in many ways.
Power can come as political power – are you in a position to influence those with authority?
Power can come as charisma – are you in a position to influence the decision of another person?
Power can come as profession – are you in a position to hire or sack another person?
Power can come as friendship – are you in a position to influence a friend to change their lifestyle?
Power can come as business – are you in a position to decide if you want to do business ethically?
If there is one place that power is truly present and very often abused, it is in your parish ministries. Today, I invited you to take a few moments to reflect on the different areas in your life that you are in a position of power over others, and I challenge you to use that power to benefit others, and never yourself.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)
Prayer: We pray for Christians in positions of power, that they may be filled with the wisdom to discern between good and evil.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for people who use power responsibly.