Thursday, December 1, 2011

Look at the Bright Side

Today's passage:  II Samuel 16
     Children have to be taught gratitude.  It doesn't come naturally.  I've met some children who seem to have been born gracious.  But I have been around children for a long time, and I know better. It is a trait that has been carefully instilled by parents, or learned individually through unfortunate experience.  As adults, gratitude either thrives or shrivels, depending on how much we use it.  If we become negative, bitter, critical people, we neglect to see the blessings.  When we praise God for every breath we take, every morsel of food we lift to our lips, every dry, warm night we spend out of the elements, thankfulness grows and envelops us.  Which brings me to today's passage about Ziba.  Do you remember Ziba?  I gave him high praise several posts ago (A Servant's Choice).  Tsk, tsk, tsk.  Alas, Ziba has somehow allowed ingratitude to creep into his heart.
Rainbow on a Cloudy Day--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book One
By Lillie A. Faris,  Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
     David has resumed to living in the hills, now that Absalom is acting king.  Every person who approaches David is either friend or foe, and I'm sure that he can't tell who is who anymore.  Ziba arrives over the hill bearing nourishment for the deposed king.  Naturally, David wants to know where Mephibosheth stands in all of this rebellion.  Ziba tells him that Mephibosheth is looking forward to recapturing the glory days of his father, Saul.  In other words, he is aiding Absalom in this thing.  As we will see a few chapters later, Ziba is lying.  Now why would this man, who had been living in poor conditions before David found them, who had probably been Mephibosheth's feet, who had been rewarded by this king with all of Saul's former lands, make up this story?  It has to start with ingratitude.  Some people can not handle good things.  The more good they have, the more they want.  I have to think this is what happened in Ziba's life.  When he was living among the ruins, he forgot what it was like to serve in Saul's palace.  He got used to the gruel and broth for meals, he became accustomed to unmended clothes, leaky roofs, chopping his own wood for the fire.  When he was far from the high life, he forgot how low he had been plunged.  Now that he was a little closer, now that he could see the fanfare at the castle while working the field, he began to savor the taste of ambition.  The lands and home he tended in service to Mephibosheth became menial.  He was the man, after all, who had reunited Jonathan's son and King David.  Why should he be planting vineyards and plowing fields?  Why should he be figuring expenses and directing servants when he could be using his skills to advise a king?  I imagine that when Mephibosheth becomes a resident of the palace, he would need servants to attend to his needs. As Ziba saw some of his former household drafted into these positions, I wonder if Ziba was offended that none of those positions went to him.  Perhaps Ziba viewed his groundskeeper/lands manager position as a curse instead of a blessing.  Ziba needed a good dose of gratitude.  He needed to remember where he had been living prior to David's calling for them.  He needed to remember that any other king would have had the household of the previous king killed, with no mercy spared.  He needed to remember that living in the palace at the beck and call of someone else was tiring.
     Our former pastor often used the illustration of the older lady who always saw the positive side of everything.  It drove people crazy, because no matter what subject was brought up, she could always see the bright side. Determined to get her to say something negative, one man asked her if she could find anything good to say about Satan.  She just gave a little chuckle, shook her head and said, "Well, that devil, he never gives up!"  What a spectacular way to look at things!  I'm not saying we should smile when we are facing sorrow.  I'm not suggesting that we plaster a smile on our face everywhere we go.  But some people never smile or never look happy.  It makes me think they have forgotten their blessings.  It makes me think they didn't know they had any to begin with.
     When we are tempted to be somewhere other than where we are, when we yearn for things we don't have, we are preparing our hearts to go the way of Ziba.  We are acting out of ingratitude.  God has a way of dealing with that.  He is expert in stripping away all we held as dear, and showing us what is really important.  It is not always easy to magnify the good, when the bad seems so much greater.  I know that.  But shouldn't we try?  When my humdrum life seems too hum or drum, I need to look to God for giving me simple things to enjoy.  When life seems hard and steep, I need to thank God He sustains me, pushes me, keeps me going.  Ziba forgot what a blessing it was to be the loyal friend of Mephibosheth.  He failed to see that not just anyone would have been given such a position of trust.  Instead of wishing for more, he should have seen that not just anyone could do his job.  When we do what God calls us to do with gratitude, it may be that He will give us more.  Then we have to choose to be thankful for the more.

1 comment:

  1. A sense of "entitlement"--that's the word by husband uses when people are ungrateful for the gifts/joys/blessings they've been given. Too often we focus on what we don't have rather than giving thanks for the many goodnesses that we enjoy.

    I woke up this morning. It's already a win!



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