Successful achievements have a way of shedding light on a person’s true character (good or evil) in the same way as hardships do. All it takes is a seemingly insignificant situation to bring out the worst or best in an individual. This is what King David faced when he and his men pursued the Amalekites who had raided their city Ziklag and took their families captive while they were away on business with Achish, a Philistine king.
David had 600 men, but only 400 were strong enough to help him pursue the Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:9-10). The other 200 were too exhausted so they stayed behind to protect the possessions that were left there. God gave David the victory so that not only did they recover their families and goods, they took the valuables that belonged to the Amalekites as spoils of war. But when they returned, what should have been a victory celebration turned ugly–
Then answered all the wicked men and men of Belial, of those that went with David, and said, Because they went not with us, we will not give them ought of the spoil that we have recovered, save to every man his wife and his children, that they may lead them away, and depart. Then said David, Ye shall not do so, my brethren, with that which the LORD hath given us, who hath preserved us, and delivered the company that came against us into our hand. For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike. … And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD; 1 Sam. 30:22-24, 26
These men of Belial (another term for the devil, by whom they were being influenced) despised the men who did not go with them in battle and thought it best not to share the spoils of war with them. David, on the other hand, out of his godly compassion, rebuked these men for their selfishness, greed, and lack of compassion for those who were not as strong as them. Encountering the weak men brought out the worst in David’s men but the best in David himself. He was then moved to use his influence to establish a compassionate principle of service that carried over into, and should be continued by, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were all on the same team and had the same goal in mind–to recover that which had been taken captive and to spoil the enemies’ goods.
In the ministry of the true church, we have unity in our spirit, in our goals, and in our relationship with Christ. We all wish to see Christ’s sovereignty manifested, lost souls saved, and God’s victory over the forces of evil. And we all are called to carry out these ideals in different ways (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). The men who stayed behind to watch over the “stuff” were just as important and vital as the men who went to physically fight the enemy.
David was generous with the spoils because he knew the Lord had provided them. Not only did he share them with the weak, he also gave some of it to the elders of Judah who had supported him. The benefits we reap from ministry should be shared with those who appear to be the least important in the kingdom (1 Cor. 12:22-24) and with those who have shown us kindness along the way.
(An updated version of the post God’s principle of service from June 6, 2007.)