Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
It was a cool, clear morning in Carmel. Nabel was proud as he gazed out over 100's and 100's of sheep -- not just sheep, his sheep. Maybe, if you were looking at that scene, you might have seen just a bunch of noisy, smelly sheep. Who knows maybe you would have seen a bunch of cuddly, fluffy animals. But Nabel, Nabel saw money. He smelled money. He could almost feel the money. You see it was shearing time. Nabel's flock had doubled to 3000 sheep this year and his men were nearly done with the sheering. This was going to make him twice as rich as he was before. How did all this happen? How did he get so many sheep? If you asked Nabel, he would say: superior intelligence. The old grey matter, his smart decision to buy property in Carmel! The Bible tells us that there is a little more to Nabel's success. You see 1 Samuel 25 records that some sort of rebel named David lived out in Carmel by Nabel's land. This David used to be a shepherd, but now he had a group of rag-tag followers who had visions of grandeur. Followers who thought they were going to take over the country. It turned out David's men had sympathy for Nabel's shepherds, they had helped his shepherds so that this year none of Nabel's sheep had been lost. Not one! Nabel knew David did not have any business sense. David had not asked for anything while they were helping to protect the sheep. What could Nabel say. He was just an eagle surrounded by turkeys. A genius who knew how to turn a buck in the middle of some soft- headed play soldiers. Tonight, tonight he would celebrate. Tonight he was going eat a whole sheep. Tonight he was going to do some serious drinking. Suddenly his daydreaming was interrupted. Ten men sent by that soft-headed David had arrived. What could they want? Turn with me to 1 Samuel 25:6-8 to hear the message of David's men to Nabel. Read. Well, wasn't that just great! They finally figured out that they should ask him for money. Well they weren't protecting his sheep now were they? If you snooze you lose. Right? Lets read what Nabel said in 1 Samuel 25:10-11. Here friends, is a businessman that knows how to conduct his business, right? Don't you have to be smarter than the other guy? Don't you have to be a shark in business? Right? Winning through intimidation? Nabel had read all the books that said that! Do you agree? I don't hear too many amens! Lets read on. Read 1 Samuel 25:12-13. 400 Men started galloping full-speed towards Nabel's place. As they are racing along, v. 22 Reveals David's intentions. Read. Wow! Maybe this wasn't such a smart idea after all. While Nabel is ordering dinner and dreaming of his business success, 400 armed men are heading his way to relieve him of his head! Friends, there is one more character in this Bible story. And it is Abigail, Nabel's wife. Verse 3 tells us that Abigail is beautiful and intelligent. In verses 14-19 we learn that a servant tells Abigail exactly what has happened. Abigail has completely the opposite reaction of her husband. She immediately gathers up all sorts of food and heads up the road towards David's camp. So David is galloping with 400 armed and angry men toward Nabel and Abigail is heading towards David with a peace offering. Fortunately for Nabel, she meets David before he gets to Nabel. Between her kind and submissive words to David, and her determination to do what was fair, David relented and did not attack her husband. Lets read on v.36-38. The Bible does not give us the exact medical diagnosis. But it seems that when Nabel hears how close he came to losing his head, he has a stroke and dies a few days later. Friends, why is this story in the Bible? Mongo! It is a warning about Mongo. How many of you have heard of Mongo? I can see that you are not keeping up on your legal literature! There is a lawyer in the Washington, DC area who writes about "Mongo." I love the name Mongo -- the way it sounds. Mongo. That is why I have said it 4 or 5 times in the last few seconds. Mongo, according to this lawyer is a beast. A beast that lives in the heart of every lawyer. My bet is that Mongo is not limited to the legal profession. Mongo probably lives in you too. Let me tell you about Mongo. About two years ago I was driving to church down Grant avenue in the morning before Sabbath school. As I came to that place on the boulevard where all the nice old houses are located I noticed Maniac right on my rear bumper. Now I was going the speed limit, or maybe a little more. So I was not needlessly holding Maniac up. As we came over a little rise, I got a brief glimpse of a police car with a police officer standing outside his car just up the road. I was pretty sure that Maniac had not seen him because he was too concerned about my bumper and it was only a brief glimpse that I got. You know that Grant is a broad boulevard at that point and there is really room for two cars on each side. But you have seen those prominent signs that say, "No Passing." Mongo whispered in my ear that if I pulled over a little to the right -- not slowing down or anything -- but moved just a little to the right, that if a Maniac were so inclined, he might just pass me. So I did. And do you know what? Maniac was inclined to pass me! So he just zoomed around and pulled in front of me just as we came into view of the police officer standing outside his police car. As I anticipated, the police officer waived Maniac over for a little consultation as I carefully drove by. That was Mongo speaking to me. Mongo is the spirit that wants you to "zing" your opponents. Make 'em look like dopes. Make yourself look better than they are. Perhaps get even. Now do you know what I mean by "Mongo?" Mongo and Nabel are first cousins. In fact, our story shows that Mongo was alive and well in David, too. The only person who was not letting Mongo take over was Abigail, Nabel's wife. Friends, the Bible has an antidote to Mongo, and it is called wisdom. Turn with me to Proverbs 3:13-14 & 18. This whole section talks about wisdom and you will do well to read the whole thing this afternoon. But I am only going to read these verses now. God tells us that "wisdom" is something we can "find," something we can "take hold of," something we can "embrace." That means it is not like intelligence. You do not have to be born with it. Or have it triggered by your parents within the first three years of your life. Everyone in this room can choose to have what God calls "wisdom." Did you know that in: 1890-- 10% of marriages ended in divorce, but in 1990-- the projection is 67% divorce: more than 2 out of 3! Did you know why most employees are fired? Not because they are incompetent and cannot do their job. It is because they cannot get along. Either the boss or the employee cannot get along. Friends, Mongo is alive and well in the family and in the workplace. What this world needs more Biblical wisdom! You would think that Christians, of all people, would listen less to Mongo and more to Biblical wisdom. George Gallop published an astonishing statistic that puts that in great doubt. In a 1994 poll he found that 30% of those polled said that they would not like to have a "religious fundamentalist" as a neighbor. In case you are wondering, you are religious fundamentalists. 45% Of those polled had a "mostly unfavorable" or "very unfavorable" opinion of religious fundamentalists. Perhaps Christians have a Nabel problem. Perhaps as a group we Christians need more wisdom and less Mongo! When I was preparing for this sermon, I read through the book of Proverbs and grouped every piece of advice according to a category. I ended up with lots of categories. But then I looked at them and decided that they could be further consolidated. When I got done boiling them down to basic groups do you know what the top 4 categories were? 1. How you speak; 2. Correction -- generally accepting it; 3. Promoting peace in personal relationships; and, 4. Pride (generally avoiding it). What I noticed was that our little story in 1 Samuel 25 illustrates these four principles of Biblical wisdom. Look again at what Nabel said to David's men: 1 Samuel 25:10-11. What is Nabel really saying? David is unimportant. He's a nobody. He is probably a runaway slave! The lowest of the low! Friends, Nabel violated a fundamental rule of Biblical wisdom: be careful not to insult the self-worth of the other person. Nabel did this deliberately. (Unless he was incredibly stupid.) But sometimes we do this carelessly. We speak before we think about what we are saying. Many years ago we lived in Fairfax and my wife Margie taught in the Alexandria church school. Back then I-495 was only a four lane road. Just two lanes going her way to school. It was a horrendous commute and she wanted very badly to cut her commute and teach in the nearby Vienna church school. The chairman of the Vienna school board heard Margie wanted to move and he decided that he wanted to hire Margie. It very soon became a "done deal." However, for the sake of appearances he arranged for her to interview the principal of the school. For some reason, I rode along to the interview and met this principal for the first time. When he stepped out of his office and shook my hand, the first thing he said was, "What's wrong with your face?" There was nothing wrong with my face (that isn't normally wrong). That is to say, what was wrong with my face then is what is wrong with my face now! When I told him that "Nothing" was wrong with my face, he was very embarassed. Friends, if you want to have a good marriage, if you want to get along with co-workers, pay attention not to insult them. Listen to proverbs 11:12 "A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. The Bible tells us not to deride, not to insult others. If you fail to follow the 1st rule, the Bible reveals what might happen to you. Once you insult someone in that way, you potentially have an enemy for life. (Of course in Nabel's case, that wasn't going to be too long.) Consider proverbs 18:19 "An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel." The Bible says you insult someone and they will start putting up walls and gates with barbed wire along the top. They will bring out big cannon and aim them right at you. It gets worse. If you insult someone by telling them they are unimportant, they will try to prove you wrong. I remember my sophomore year of college I signed up for "Business Law. I had wanted to be a lawyer ever since I was a kid and this was my first opportunity to take a "law" course. The class was not open to freshmen, and I was excited to be in the class that first day. At the beginning of the class the teacher (who was the department chairman) asked everyone who was a sophomore to raise his hand. So I did (among several others). He then said, I want you to come up and take this "drop slip" and turn it in after this class. Do you know about "drop slips?" You fill one out when you decide to change your mind and not take a course. After class I came up front with my drop slip and told that teacher I did not want to drop the class (after all I had been waiting to take it!), and so why did I want to fill out this drop slip? He told me that he wanted me to fill it out. After some debate I told him that I was not going to drop the course unless he told me I had to drop it. He would only say that he wanted me to drop, he would not require me to drop. Why did he want me to drop? He told me that sophomores were not serious students and that he had never had a sophomore in his class that had better than a "C" grade. How do you think I reacted to being told that I could not get better than a "C" in his class because I was a sophomore and therefore by definition not a "serious student?" It was a two quarter class. The first quarter I got an A and the second quarter I had the top average in the entire class. (I do not think he ever liked me because I clearly pointed my class standing out to him and reminded him of his words to me on the first day of class!) If you insult someone by telling them they are unimportant they may try to hurt you so you will understand just how important they are. That was precisely David's reaction to Nabel's suggestion that he was a "runaway slave." Proverbs 13:3 predicts this kind of thing: "He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." The second rule of Biblical wisdom calls on us to do more than simply avoid insulting others. Although Nabel would have been better off if he had just avoided insulting David, the best thing for him -- and us -- is to be kind and generous to others in the way we speak to them. Abigail in our story was kind and generous to David. When David's men came to Nabel, Mongo told Nabel he did not need them. David's men were asking Nabel for something, so he thought they needed him. The Bible tells us being kind to others really benefits us. In Proverbs 11:17 we are told, "A kind man benefits himself, but a cruel man brings trouble on himself." Ephesians 5:28 applies this concept to marriage -- and I have this text memorized: "He who loves his wife loves himself." It works both ways: she who loves her husband, loves herself. When someone comes to you for something, you can be either kind or you can be cruel. If you are kind, the Bible says you help yourself. By being kind Abigail saved her whole household! More than that, if you read 1 Samuel 25 through to the end, you will find Abigail married David! She became the wife of the next king! Friends, this shows there is power in kind and loving words, words of wisdom. Remember: David was riding up with 400 armed men. What would it take to stop this small army? It was words. Words stopped an army. Words have real power. Proverbs 25:15 says, "A gentle tongue can break a bone." Prov 15:1 teaches, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Sometimes you may not want to use gentle words. Mongo at times certainly has gotten me to have a harsh reaction -- just like David here. That brings me to the third rule of Biblical wisdom. If you are tempted to use harsh words because you have been insulted, don't. Overlook the insult. When the principal was asking me what was wrong with my face, I was tempted to skip the "kind and gentle" response idea. But the Bible specifically teaches us to overlook insult. It is a sign of high wisdom to be able to overlook an insult. Prov 12:16: "A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult." Prov 19:11 "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense." Finally, an unnamed character in our story reflects our fourth and last wisdom principle. 1 Samuel 25:14-17 tells us that one of the servants went to Abigail to tell her what had happened and seek her wisdom. Let's read what the unnamed servant said to Abigail in the first part of 1 Samuel 25:17. The servant is suggesting to Abigail that if she does not act, disaster hanging over their head! Mongo was probably telling her to pay no attention. This was, after all, a servant suggesting that Abigail do something. But Abigail once again displayed Biblical wisdom. She could have been upset that a mere servant was trying to tell her what to do. Instead, she was willing to take advice. Another principle of Biblical wisdom is to seek advice, consult with others. Prov 20:18: "Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance." Prov 15:22: "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Prov 12:15: "The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." You might think that asking others for advice may make you seem less intelligent. But did you ever think that seeking advice made you smarter instead of seem dumber? When you get an idea from someone that you did not think of, you add that person's wisdom to yours! Well, pride interferes with accepting advice, which is exactly what Proverbs tells us: Prov. 13:10: "Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice." Prov 12:1: "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid." If we learn these principles of Biblical wisdom, and stop listening to Mongo, the Bible tells us we will stand out in the crowd. Proverbs 25:12: "Like an erring of gold or ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear." Think about that for a minute. "Like an erring of gold ... Is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear." These are the days of "earring evolution." Earrings are moving, in my opinion, to places they were never meant to be. Just listen to the word a minute: "earring." The name is not "eyebrowring," "lipring" or "navelring." The name is "earring." The thing about earrings, especially in the wrong places, is that they catch your attention. That is what God tells us: if we take advice, if we accept criticism, if we learn from others, you will catch the attention of the boss. You will be a more attractive person to your spouse, your employer and those around you if you: 1. Watch what we say so that we do not insult others; 2. More than that, actively seek to be kind to others; 3. Overlook insults; and, 3. Add the wisdom of others to our wisdom by seeking and following Godly advice. God's word not only gives us the key to eternal life it gives us the key to living better on Monday!