Today's passage: I Samuel 25:1-17
"They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep."
In the teaching profession, there is a lot of mentoring and encouragement. We borrow teaching tips from each other, we give advice, we ask for advice, we pool ideas. All this makes for an enjoyable work environment. I don't think I could ever work on Wall Street, where it is every man for himself. I don't think I could steal clients from another person, or recommend myself over a colleague. Highly competitive people probably enjoy that work environment, but it would not be for me. Maybe not all stock brokers try to edge out rivals, and maybe not all teachers cooperate with one another, but generally, you can see the difference in the two atmospheres.
David used to be a shepherd. In fact, he used to shepherd in Bethlehem which is not a great deal's distance from Maon, where this passage takes place. In between the two cities is a great wilderness. So shepherds would either take their sheep into this wilderness to graze, or they would take them west to pasture. In any case, I am guessing that some of the shepherds from these towns would have met up at one point or another. David may have been familiar with Nabal from his shepherding days. He obviously knew he was a wealthy man, or he would not have imposed on him to feed over 400 mouths. David and his men have wandered the countryside, I guess depending on others for food, but that is not always easy when you have such a large group of men. Perhaps they hunted and fished. They could have on many occasions slaughtered sheep that they happened across in their travels. The sheep would have provided mutton and wool. This would most likely be a last resort. Having been a shepherd, David understood the importance of every sheep in the flock. He would have sympathized with families that raised them as their living, and would prefer to leave them to those families. Apparently, David and his men had crossed paths with Nabal's shepherds. They even offered them protection, in exchange for nothing. David understood the perils of watching the sheep by night. He was willing to offer a helping hand.
Now the time comes when David could use a helping hand. He is hungry. He knows Nabal has the means to feed them. He has helped Nabal in the past so he asks for a favor. I don't think David helped Nabal's men in order to get something for the future, but since he is in need, he figures that maybe Nabal will return the kindness. Here is Nabal's response, "And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master."
I'm not buying that Nabal has no idea who David is. In fact, I'm guessing that Nabal is one of those competitive Wall Street types who wants to monopolize the sheep farming business. He probably knew every shepherd in the area, every sheep owner around and made it his business to keep track of who had what. He had to have heard about David's reputation, not only as a shepherd, but as a servant to king Saul. Hadn't everyone heard about the giant slayer? There is some reason that Nabal refuses to help David. I think he would like to see the downfall of David and the downfall of his family. I think he would like to be the only sheep owner standing in southern Judah. Does he even listen to the fact that David and his men had spared his shepherds and his sheep on numerous occasions? That they in fact, had offered protection? Nabal refuses to hear it. He has his mind set. Perhaps he thinks that with Jesse's old age and his best shepherd a fugitive, Jesse will have to sell the family business. And guess who might march up the walk willing to take it off his hands? Of course, I can't know any of this for sure, but it seems reasonable to think that this may have been Nabal's motivation. He obviously had no fear of David. He does not think about what David could possibly do to him or his business. Fortunately, Nabal has a wise wife. This must have been an arranged marriage, because I don't see how foolish Nabal could have ended up with wise Abigail. I know opposites attract, but not that opposite.
Competition is healthy, to an extent. I believe in a free market where competition helps business to improve. I enjoy watching competitive sports, where somebody wins and somebody loses. I love competitive board games where hopefully I win ( I do have a bit of a competitive streak in me). Sometimes competition becomes cut-throat, and then it gets ugly. When we only concentrate on winning, when we only see the bottom line, competition loses purpose. Competition should motivate us to improve ourselves, it shouldn't leave us trampled in the dust. That is why we have sportsmanship awards, so in the midst of competition, we can still show some civility. Nabal could only see the bottom line. He was willing to mow over anybody to achieve what he wanted. In the heat of the race, I should be focused on the finish line, but I mustn't forget those on the sidelines who helped me get there. A Wall Street tycoon more than likely profited from other brokers who fizzled out. Teachers of the year had to get those ideas from somewhere or somebody. Competition is working hard to win, but usually we benefit from those who lose. Nobody wins or profits without some help. Do I lend a helping hand when I am at the top of the world? Or do I squash the competitors? If that is my attitude, I shouldn't be surprised when someone has to help me off the ground someday.