You shall not covet (Ex. 20:17)
There once was a man named Naboth. He owned a choice vineyard near King Ahab’s palace. Naboth feared the LORD. He practiced his faith by living a covenantal way of life grounded in the generosity of God and ordered by Torah, the will of God. Covenant is a non-covetous lifestyle. Covenant is a grateful lifestyle. Covenant knows nothing of grasping, taking, coercing, plotting, competing, manipulating, dominating, or forcing. Covenant communities flourish because everyone has a place, a name, and enough resources to live “the good life.”
There once was a woman named Jezebel. She was married to King Ahab and lived in the palace close to Naboth’s vineyard. Jezebel did not know the LORD. She practiced a malicious pagan faith grounded in grabbing all you can others be damned. Jezebel practiced a life of covetousness. Hers was a grasping lifestyle in which taking, coercing, plotting, competing, manipulating, dominating, and forcing others is the only game in town. Her idea of the “good life” is a “winner take all” gambit that exploits all nameless, placeless losers who lack the “killer instincts” that alone justify human existence.
There once was a king of Israel named Ahab. He was anointed under God to uphold covenant. But he married Jezebel. One day he went to Naboth to buy his vineyard. He pleaded with him. He offered him a price “far exceeding fair market value.” But Naboth refused. He refused because God had given his family the land as an inheritance. This gift of land was essential to his covenant obedience. Naboth rejected every instinct to abandon covenant.
Ahab came home and pouted. Jezebel showed no sympathy. She chastised him for wimpishness. “You’re the king, for crying out loud. You can do anything you want.” Then Jezebel showed him what “winner take all” is all about. She plotted to wrest the land from Naboth using every intrigue in her indecent repertoire. She broke, implicitly or explicitly, every one of the Ten Commandments, the heart of the covenant that Ahab should have overseen.
· Commandments One–Four: Jezebel induced Ahab to abandon the God of the covenant, the concern of the First Tablet, and assert a “winner take all” rule.
· Fifth Commandment: Jezebel induced Ahab to trash respect for covenantal authority grounded in Yahweh and passed on through parents to children.
· Sixth Commandment: Jezebel induced Ahab to have innocent Naboth killed, a precursor to every “final solution” that has blemished human history.
· Seventh Commandment: Jezebel induced Ahab to “adulterate” the community by her disdain of covenant in every realm of social existence.
· Eighth Commandment: Jezebel in effect stole Naboth’s land and placed Naboth’s whole family in peril, draining the resources of the covenant community to provide for them.
· Ninth Commandment: Jezebel bribed two unscrupulous men to bear false witness against Naboth, destroying the justice system of Israel by promoting “fake new.”
· Tenth Commandment: Jezebel’s whole modus operandi was to empower Ahab to obliterate covenant by letting covetousness reign supreme.
What happens when the tradition and spirit of covenant—revealed to Israel in the Torah and to the whole world through the Gospel of Jesus Christ—is abandoned? What happens when the spirit of Jezebel colonizes the people’s hearts and minds? And what happens when God’s people adopt the spirit of Jezebel to force “God’s will” on the rest of us and think they are serving God in the process? It’s worth contemplating these questions during Lent.