“There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.” (2 Samuel 12:1-9 – emphasis added)
Recently my pastor has been preaching on the stories in the genealogy of Jesus, from Matthew chapter 1. Last week he was talking about King David and Bathsheba. The Israelites were at war with the Ammonites when King David (who probably should have been with his troops at the time…) wandered onto his rooftop and caught sight of a woman bathing on another roof. Lust, abuse of power, adultery, and an unplanned pregnancy followed. Then, to cover his tracks, David brought the woman’s husband home from war, hoping they could pass off the pregnancy as his own child. But the husband, Uriah, refused to sleep with his wife while he was home, so David arranged to have him killed in battle, and took Bathsheba as his own.
This is where the prophet Nathan comes into the story. The quoted text above is how Nathan approached David to confront him about his sins. The story got to David. He was ready to strike at the wealthy man who would steal a beloved lamb out of laziness and greed. Then Nathan dropped the bomb. “You are the man,” he told David. David had everything. He was the king. He had wealth, fame, and military success (does the name Goliath ring any bells?). He had at least two other wives, too.
So what does David and Bathsheba’s story have to do with hunger, poverty, and fair trade? The answer is in Nathan’s words. “You are that man!”
Do you have a place to live? According to a Yale study, 150 million people around the world are homeless, and as many as 1.8 billion lack adequate housing.
Do you have food to eat? According to the UN World Food Programme, 795 million people in the world, about 1 in 9, do not have enough to eat.
Do you have access to clean water? About 4 billion people, nearly two-thirds of the world population, experience severe water scarcity at least part of the year.
Do your children have a chance to grow and learn, or are they faced into (often unsafe) work as children? According to Compassion, 152 million children worldwide are victims of child labor, and nearly half of them are age 11 or younger. About half of employed children work in hazardous conditions. Most of them will never receive an education beyond primary school, and subsequently they will struggle with low-paying jobs all their lives.
Do you ever find yourself saying, “I really need (insert something you do not actually need)?
Do you ever throw things out just because you don’t like them anymore?
Do you ever throw away food or waste water?
Then you are that man. And so am I.
Feeling bad about being fortunate doesn’t help anyone. I’m not pointing this out to make you feel guilty. I’m saying this to remind us to think about your spending. Every dollar you spend is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Buy fair trade when possible, or second-hand. Research companies that don’t use child labor. Put some effort into creating less waste. Think like the old World War Two era slogan: Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without.
You don’t have to be perfect, just strive to do the next right thing.