18 June 2018
1 Kings 21:1-16
Naboth of Jezreel had a vineyard close by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria, and Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it adjoins my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it or, if you prefer, I will give you its worth in money.’ But Naboth answered Ahab, ‘The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors!’
Ahab went home gloomy and out of temper at the words of Naboth of Jezreel, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.’ He lay down on his bed and turned his face away and refused to eat. His wife Jezebel came to him. ‘Why are you so dispirited’ she said ‘that you will not eat?’ He said, ‘I have been speaking to Naboth of Jezreel; I said: Give me your vineyard either for money or, if you prefer, for another vineyard in exchange. But he said, “I will not give you my vineyard.”’ Then his wife Jezebel said, ‘You make a fine king of Israel, and no mistake! Get up and eat; cheer up, and you will feel better; I will get you the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel myself.’
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, sending them to the elders and nobles who lived where Naboth lived. In the letters she wrote, ‘Proclaim a fast, and put Naboth in the forefront of the people. Confront him with a couple of scoundrels who will accuse him like this, “You have cursed God and the king” Then take him outside and stone him to death.’
The men of Naboth’s town, the elders and nobles who lived in his town, did what Jezebel ordered, what was written in the letters she had sent them. They proclaimed a fast and put Naboth in the forefront of the people. Then the two scoundrels came and stood in front of him and made their accusation, ‘Naboth has cursed God and the king.’ They led him outside the town and stoned him to death. They then sent word to Jezebel, ‘Naboth has been stoned to death.’ When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, ‘Get up! Take possession of the vineyard which Naboth of Jezreel would not give you for money, for Naboth is no longer alive, he is dead.’ When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth of Jezreel and take possession of it.
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.’
But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance.
Why did Naboth offer no resistance to the false accusations? This is something which some may ask, especially those who feel that he was wronged. It almost seems that the system was engineered to be against him and that he had no recourse against the injustice. I believe that today’s Gospel offers us a possible answer — love in the presence of great evil.
We may not be familiar with the circumstances and background behind Naboth’s choice of response, but we do know why Ahab wanted the land. He was greedy and, in spite of all the material possessions which he already possessed as king, he still wanted more. Jezebel, his wife, made use of her power to try to change the situation by ensuring that Naboth was wrongly accused and eliminated totally from the scene. In the light of such injustice in today’s world, will we respond with the same level of violence?
Does violence displayed deserve a reply of violence? It does have an intuitive appeal, but Jesus reminds us of the need to show love to the people around us. A world of violence will not lead to a better outcome but a downward spiral of unhappiness and despair for future generations. We face tremendous unhappiness and anger in our workplace, homes and relationships. The response of peace is what distinguishes a believer of Christ from a non-believer.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the grace to respond in peace to the people around us.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.