The Illusion of Control

In a recent sermon on 1 Samuel 30, Doug Wilson commented on David’s insistence that those who stayed behind to guard the supplies received an equal share of the plunder:

There’s a way of reading [the Bible] with your eyes open and a way of reading the Bible with your eyes closed. Your spiritual eyes are closed when you have a stingy heart. If you have a heart that’s like a bit of beef jerky left in the bottom of the bag when you’re done with it, you’re not going to be able to read the script no matter how many times you read the script.

What kind of man is David? Why is David able to trust God like this?…

A despot knows how to work with bribes and influence peddlers. A despot knows how to work the system. A despot knows how to pay people off. If you flip back to 1 Samuel 22:7, we see Saul’s idea of generosity. Saul is complaining about David.

Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, “Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds…”

“Don’t you understand? I gave you all this stuff. Where’s my loyalty!”

When our despotic federal government is dispensing money, throwing it away by the trillion, they are doing exactly this. But what are they doing it with? They are doing it with other people’s money.  They are buying off one group with what they pillaged from another group.

David, however, is generous with material goods which he gained lawfully. Saul is accruing all sorts of things to himself in the spirit Samuel warned Israel about in 1 Samuel 8. Saul is violating the Deuteromonic standards for the king of Israel, and David is not. David’s role in gaining the plunder was so obvious, David was so magnificent, that all the men rightly said, “This is David’s spoil. It all belongs to David.”

David knew it was his because God had been generous to him, and David resolved to be generous to others.

When Saul tries to work the system by bribing people, that is not the same thing as imitating the generosity of God. Someone who is buying loyalty is certainly giving something, but the heart doesn’t understand the nature of true generosity. The cosmos does work according to the law of reciprocity, but it does so without becoming a vending machine. You can trick a vending machine. You cannot trick a God Who is not mocked, Who says that a man reaps what he sows. God is not a game that can be played. God is not a system that can be worked. God is a God whose mercy overflows, but he sees when you are being like him and when you are only pretending to be like him.

When 200 of his men grow faint, David was an understanding leader. David entrusted his suffering men with the care of the supplies, with some responsibility. When he returned, he gave them a full share of the spoil.

When they came upon the Egyptian slave which the Amalekite master had abandoned to die in the wilderness when he had grown sick, they fed him before they knew whether his information would be of any use to them.

David had it written into law that the supply corps should share in the spoils. Compare this with the sons of Belial who thought they were being generous. “We let them have their own wives and kids. What more could you want?” When David returns to Ziklag, he takes all the spoil that he has recovered and sends gifts all over the region.

They key principle found in the heart of David is here in v. 23:

Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the Lord hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand.

The Lord is giving to us. How can we not be giving. The Lord has forgiven us. How can we not be forgiving?

God’s mercy is overflowing, but it does not extend everywhere. There is one place to which God’s mercy does not extend for the same reason that circles cannot be square. God cannot save you from drowning by leaving you in the water. God cannot show mercy to you and at the same time leave you on the bottom of the lake of your own mercilessness.

David was an open-hearted, merciful king. This is the open hand ruling. Consider that Jesus rules the universe this way, and the rule of every government is founded on this principle. Kings rule this way. Fathers rule in their homes this way. Mayors rule this way. Elders and pastors rule this way. When government is blessed by God, it is this kind of rule.

God loves mercy. The merciful heart is open, honest, generous, glad and much more. If God rules the universe that way, all that the control monkey has, in his efforts to get things going his way, is the illusion of control.

Excerpt from The Open Hand Rules, January 17, 2012.

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