Rich Man, Poor Man: Discontent vs Loving Your Gift

So the Lord sent Nathan to David. 
When he arrived, he said to him:

There were two men in a certain city, 
One rich and the other poor.

The rich man had a large number of sheep and cattle.

But the poor man had nothing 
Except one small ewe lamb that he had bought.

He raised it, and it grew up, living with him and his children.
It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; 
It slept in his arms, 
And it was like a daughter to him.

Now a traveler came to the rich man.
But the rich man could not bring himself 
to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the traveler who had come to him.

He took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for his guest.

-2 Samuel 12:1-4

Question: Do you ever want what someone else has?  Do you ever long for a different life, to have the things, the position, or the recognition that someone else has?  Are you unhappy with other peoples blessings?

A Simple Story About Two Different Men

Nathan, the prophet, told a story here, to David, of two men.  One was rich and one was poor.  One was content and one was discontented.

We might imagine that the poor man was the one who must have, naturally, been discontented.  But, not so.  The rich man was discontent.  He coveted the one prized possession of the poor man.

The Ugly Word: Covet

Covet is a Bible word that we do not use often in every day speech.  The sin of coveting, found in the ten commandments, is the sin of strongly desiring other peoples stuff.  In ancient times and today, coveting other people's stuff is an issue, a problem, and a destructive sin.
Covet: to want to have something very much, especially something that belongs to someone else.
Coveting often leads to stealing and stealing is often the result of coveting.

Acting on Coveting Opens the Door to Destruction

In the story of the two men, the rich man has the audacious desire to have and then steals the one prized possession of the poor man.  He adds stealing on top of coveting.  To not steal is another thing spoken about in the ten commandments.

You might say, "wait a minute - I see the stealing, but not the coveting".

Let me explain.  He coveted it when he looked and desired to have it: something that belonged to someone else.  You begin to get the idea of how bad this is when you see someone looking at what is yours, even at your wife or your husband, with the desire to take her or him from you.

The rich man, even though he had his own flocks or herds of livestock, had his desires set on the one lamb of the poor man.  He looked and desired before he stole.  His discontent drove him to destructive sin.

The Biblical mandate for all is to live the opposite of this.  We should celebrate other's gifts and generously give to others.   The poor man lived right and the rich man was evil.

Everybody is tempted to covet and to steal.  We all need to not do that.  But it is particularly egregious when the rich covet and steal the prizes or the gifts that poor people possess.

David: Man after God's own heart and egregious sinner.

The person's story that this parable points to is a particular person, who was one of the most honored and favored persons in the whole Bible: David.  We could examine this story, forgetting it's immediate context, but look at it in the context of the whole of scripture and conclude or teach, and rightly so, that God is against the rich exploiting the poor.  All of scripture and God himself, stands against this rich man and the evil thing he did.

But it turns out that this rich man, the bad person in this story, was none other than David, beloved of God, grandfather of Jesus.  When I read the wider story here, I wept for Uriah, and I wept for the baby.  I felt very sad for Bathsheba and very angry at David.

There is a cognitive dissonance here, a paradox.  The, "Man after God's own heart", engaged in something diabolical.  If you read the rest of the story, you will hear God's indictment of David, that he despised the Lord (2 Sam. 12:10) and treated God's word with contempt (12:9).  David's sins were a direct affront to God.

We have to ask, "why?": The forensics of the crime.

The beginning was covetousness.  Why did David act on it?  Why would he or why would we do something so selfish and destructive, when he or we know better?
Covet: to want to have something very much, especially something that belongs to someone else.
Sitting in a palace, surrounded by the gifts of God, David was an ingrate: an ungrateful person.
Ungrateful: not showing or expressing any thanks.
David might have experienced envy, which is a sin.  Envy rots a person from the inside (Prov. 14:30) and is a loveless heart (1 Cor. 13:4).
Envy: to wish that you had something that another person has: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck.
David showed no pity for the Uriah, when he stole his wife.  He displayed conduct that was unbecoming (of) an officer and a gentleman, and deserved court-marshal.
Pity: sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy.
No pity: indifference, mean, mercilessness, unkind, disdain.
Grace defiled: ungracious licentiousness from a bitter root
Licentious. 1 : lacking legal or moral restraints; especially : disregarding sexual restraints. 2 : marked by disregard for strict rules of correctness.
Why or how could David have done this?  In the episode he was completely without grace: he missed the grace of God.  David was not walking with God or living in the empowering presence of God when he did this whole thing.  David displayed very bad fruit in his life.

David's entitlement, his arrogance, and his greed; was rooted in his putting himself above the law (Deut. 29:19).  In so doing, he fostered a "bitter root that defiled many" (Heb. 12:15).  The indictments bear this out (2 Sam. 12:9-14).  David did what he did out of contempt for the Lord and he despised God's laws.

David was not a pagan or a heretic.  He was known as someone with good theology and an example of God's work.  But he allowed himself to become corrupt and put himself above the rules, as if they did not apply to him; but they did apply to him.

This very destructive episode, which would haunt David and ended the lives of two people; all started with coveting, with David desiring something that was not his.  One sin leads to another greater sin, and by greater, I mean more destructive.  And sin is not a private singular matter, but affects those around the sinner and the sinners family and whole community.

We can imagine that Uriah had fellow soldiers that were also killed, because of David's malevolent scheme.  Later, two of David's sons would die tragic deaths that did not have to happen, but for David's own treachery.  Does the story of David's sin break your heart?

The only hope for David and all sinners is the Lord, who forgives and redeems.  

How could this happen to David, the gifted warrior and worshiper, who had a heart previous to pursue God?   How did it happen, and what can we learn of how this can happen to us?  David forgot who he was and all that God had done for him, and 'helped himself' to something that was not his to have, that was 'off-limits'.  

Did David set out to ruin his life and ruin the lives of others?  I do not think so.  We can not get in his head, but he seems to have become delusional.  What he did was insane.

David walked himself and fell into a trap.  In a moment of self-deception, he reasoned that he was poor and that woman was his for the taking.  He did not see her as someone's wife or someone's mother, sister, or daughter.  He did not see her as Father's child.

See the person.

A great lesson, in the realm of romance, or eroticism, is to see the person.  The same principle applies when ministering to a person who is not attractive to you on the outside in any dimension: to see them as a person who Father loves.  And this principle also applies in matters of prejudice: to see them as a person, a person whom God loves and we love with the love of God, if we are indeed Christians.

Discontent: the illusion of poverty

We could talk all day about how stupid and how bad and how sinful he was.  But, setting that aside, perhaps David, in his mind, was the poor man, who was starving for something, and when opportunity knocked, he opened.  This is the deception of discontentment that leads to the destructive sin of coveting.

It is interesting that low self-esteem manifests itself both in delusions of grandeur and self-hate, both in the same person.  What if David was conceived out of wedlock and he and his brothers found out and he began a life of shame based wildness, while congruently having a gift for intimacy with God and an insatiable hunger to worship God and know God?  Like all of us, David was a mixture of personal brokenness and the gifts of God.

The Bible says that "the sins of the fathers are visited on the children..."  We pass on our sins to our children, unless we appropriate the forgiveness and redemption, healing, and deliverance that God offers.  What if David's dad conceived him with a lady he was not married to at the time, and this became more of an open wound for David?  Deep healing is available for deep wounds, if we seek it.

Low self-esteem is usually rooted in childhood hurts.  When we are walking-wounded people who are not in God's program of healing, we do not see ourselves or others through God's eyes and we might imagine ourselves to be poor, when we are indeed rich.

Today, we have a lot of people walking around, who have been blessed, but have not processed their woundedness, who are living destructive lives.  This destruction did not have to happen to David, and it does not have to happen to us.  The truth is that we can and will destroy our lives and other people's lives, if we do not walk with God.

David's story yells to us, "do not do what I did!", "spare yourself the heartache and destruction!", "walk with God and keep your eyes on the Lord always!"

When we are jealous of others, of their gift from God, and want to take it from them for ourselves, we are just like David and his sin, who this story has pointed at.  To look at others and think, "they should not have that, I should have that", is flat out wrong.

Father gives good gifts to each one of his children.

When we look at others with envy and jealousy, and covet for ourselves, wanting to steal what they have been given, for our own selves; that is wrong because it takes our eyes off of God, who has given and is giving precious and personal gifts to each one of us.  When we desire what others have and yearn to steal it for ourselves, that is self-destructive to our own relationship to God, where in he is our Father who gives good gifts to each of his children.

We can not yearn for and desire to have someone else's life, their gifts, their fame, their influence, opportunities, or their homes and families; and walk with God.  

When you feel bad because something good happens for someone else, I hope I don't have to convince you that it is not good.  We do feel bad when bad things happen to us.  But when we feel bad when good things happen to others, we have a symptom of a problem.

The solution is not just, "stop it", but, "turn back to God and see the gifts he is giving and has given you.  Let's imagine, and I believe it is true, that the poor man in the story was very content.  Let us imagine we are each the poor man.

Being "the king", and being, "the songwriter", and being famous does not bring happiness.  David's happiness was always rooted in his intimate love relationship with Yahweh, cultivated during those long lonely days and nights, out with the sheep.  That was David's treasure and his gift from God.

The one who lived before the Lord, in contentment.

The poor man in the story is the man named Uriah.  Uriah had a love for God.  Uriah had a wife, who was a gift from God, to him.  Uriah seems to have been content and a godly man.

The parable of the two men, the poor man and the rich man, is a lesson about contentment.

Being rich, powerful, and famous does not make you happy or content.

It was the rich man who had a problem and sinned against the poor man.

Money and fame do not bring happiness.  Money and fame actually bring stress and trouble, especially when they suddenly come and you are not able to handle it.

Many rich, famous, or powerful people do not feel good about themselves.  They feel poor, and not in a blessed way.  Contentment is an inside job.

All of us are either content or discontent.  Being discontent has nothing to do with your stuff.  It is soul problem.

The poor man is our model for content living.

The person to emulate, from the parable, is the poor man.  He relished and cherished the gift he had acquired.  He was living in contentment.
  • Relish: to like or enjoy something greatly.
  • Cherish: to love, protect, and care for someone or something that is important to you.
  • Contentment: the feeling or state of being happy or satisfied.
We can choose, and it is up to us to cultivate contentment.  If you do not enjoy life and the gifts of God in your life when you are poor, you will not enjoy life when you are rich.

The content person enjoys what they have.  They savor their life.

Promotion, striking gold, or favor are welcomed by the content person.  They do not strive, but they work hard and welcome new gifts, more gifts, if and when they come.  They are content whether they are rich or poor, whether they fail or succeed.

Content people are also unselfish team players.  Content people do not cheat.  Content people are dignified and honorable, giving dignity and honor to others and God; out of their lifestyle of humility, meekness, and love.

Discover, unwrap, and enjoy your gift from God.

The lesson of Uriah, from Nathan's story, is to enjoy the gift or gifts that God gives you and cherish them.  It seems that this is what Uriah was doing before David interrupted his life.  That is the lesson for us and for David.  This is the verse that is my message:

But the poor man had nothing 
Except one small ewe lamb that he had bought.

He raised it, and it grew up, living with him and his children.
It shared his meager food and drank from his cup; 
It slept in his arms, 
And it was like a daughter to him.

-Second Samuel 12:3

You may not be rich and famous, but you do not have nothing.  See that word "except".  You are exceptional in God's sight.  He has already given you an exceptional gift.

Have you discovered the gift of God in your life?  We might have a gift, in the singular; or a plurality of gifts.  Have you seen your gift?  Have you opened it?

We need to discover and unpack our gifts from God.  Then, we need to cultivate them, enjoy them, learn about them.  We need to thoroughly enjoy our gifts and celebrate them with God.

The gift of God in your life is for God's glory.  Gifts always point back to the giver.  Are you glorifying God with the gifts Father has given to you?

Why would we need to be jealous of the toys that God gives to others, when we are sitting in Papa's lap?  There is no need to feel bad when God gives favor, or promotion to his other kids, because Father is our provider too.  Cultivate and grow in the heart of Jesus that is never jealous of what others have, but is always enjoying what Father gives, sends, and provides.