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Friday, August 30, 2013

Today’s Reading | 1 Kings 3:16–28

Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. The one woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.” But the other woman said, “No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.” So they argued before the king.

Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; while the other says, ‘Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’ ” So the king said, “Bring me a sword,” and they brought a sword before the king. The king said, “Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.” But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—“Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!” The other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.” Then the king responded: “Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.” All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice. (NRSV)


I’m leaving Solomon out of this one, mostly. He’s not very interesting here anyway; he is smarter than everyone else, and he has less personal stake in the outcome. He decides on the basis of a trick, and that’s not interesting, really. The two mothers, though—that’s a contest. “I give up” versus “I would rather no one wins than I lose.”

Look at the world today. Everywhere you look there are those who would say “Better no one wins than I lose.” Those who show willingness to give up one thing to get another, they are derided for weakness and a lack of conviction. Compromise—what a dirty word. Shows an appalling lack of conviction, of moral fiber.

What kind of mother would give away her child?

When the choice is life for her child rather than death, the only true mother is the one who will give in. The one who would rather the child die than be raised by another mother, the one who would rather the child die than she lose the contest—that’s no true mother. That is someone who cares more about herself than the child.

This story crosses cultures. It is not only “people of the book” who recognize the wisdom of Solomon’s decision. Everyone who hears it does. But the world is filled with people who would rather burn everything down than think they have lost. And we are placed, every day, in the place of Solomon, deciding whom we will call just, whom we will call true, whom we will call humane.

Compromise is often disappointing and painful. The alternative? It’s not much of an alternative, is it?


Lord, please remind us of your teaching—that it is the weak who fear compromise, but strong who are able to give themselves up for the good of those in need. As you gave yourself up for us, let us learn to give ourselves up for others. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts

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