“And David came to the two hundred men, which were so faint that they could not follow David, whom they had made also to abide at the brook Besor: and they went forth to meet David, and to meet the people that were with him: and when David came near to the people, he saluted them. 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 it was so from that day forward, that he made it a statute and an ordinance for Israel unto this day” (1 Samuel 30:21-25).
David and his six hundred men pursued after the Amalekites, but when they reached Besor, a third of them were too wearied to continue and felt that they would not be up to the ensuing battle (:10). The remaining four hundred soldiers went on to fight their enemy and “And David smote them from the twilight even unto the evening of the next day: and there escaped not a man of them, save four hundred young men, which rode upon camels, and fled” (:17). They recovered everything that the Amalekites had stolen, and in fact took a great deal of spoil after defeating them. Unfortunately a few of David’s men, though they were brave in battle, were considered to be worthless fellows due to their unkind attitude towards the two hundred who tarried by the stuff. They considered these men to be cowards and lazy, therefore they ought not receive a share of the spoil. David spoke up for the two hundred and declared that those who guarded Israel’s belongings are just as worthy of their reward as are they who fought in the battle. This insight was made an ordinance in Israel from that day forward.
“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:47-48).
David’s ordinance is based on the principle found in many “Kingdom of Heaven” parables taught by the Lord Jesus Christ, for God only asks us to do what He requires and will bless us accordingly. In the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25:14-30), we find the master’s servants being given one, two and five talents. Each one was to use what was given “according to his several ability” (Matthew 25:15), no more, no less. The five- talent and two-talent servants doubled their money, but the one-talent servant was lazy. While we rightly focus on what the wicked and unfaithful servant did (or did not do), we cannot ignore the fact that the two others, despite the difference in their accomplishments, received exactly the same reward and commendation. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). As with David’s two hundred, both servants did the best they could with what they had. Neither party had been slothful, negligent or indifferent, but in fact were obeying their lord to the full. God only condemns the disobedient and lazy. “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30). Failure to serve the Lord to the best of our ability is never tolerated by Jesus!
So those who tarried by the stuff were to receive exactly the same blessing as those who engaged in battle. We know it is right, but then there is that part of us that thinks it is not completely fair. This brings us to the parable of the vineyard (see Matthew 20:1-16). Here is a vineyard owner who hires labourers at different hours of the day. Each one agrees to work for one penny, but when those who worked longer saw that everyone received the same wage, they were disgruntled for they expected to receive more. How quickly human nature exhibits feelings of self-worth and self-esteem!
Do we really think that we are more worthy of God’s blessings because we think we have done more for Him than others? God’s Kingdom does not work that way. Though there will be differing levels of reward in Heaven, each one of us will be eternally happy with what the Lord gives us. Why do we not hold to the same principle on this side of eternity? The one who comes to Christ a minute before death is just as worthy of the Kingdom in God’s eyes as is the one who served Him for decades. Both the two-talent and five-talent servants experienced the same level of joy. We will all receive our “penny” reward in Heaven!
When we think we ought to receive more than others it is a sign of greed and covetousness reigning in us, and also the desire for recognition. Such an attitude has to go if we are going to be useful to Christ. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). Alongside this is the idea that we must serve the Lord rather than constantly comparing ourselves with other believers. This kind of “holier than thou” attitude is never acceptable to the Lord. When the Lord told Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:15-19), his first response was to ask about John, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” (John 21:21). Maybe part of his query was to do with feelings of his own self-importance in the work of God and if others were as worthy as he. Jesus reprimanded Peter by saying, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:22). Just do what He asks of us, that is all that is required, no more, no less.
Each of us plays a part in spreading the good news of Christ’s Kingdom. Nobody is more important to the Lord than anyone else. Someone preaches the word, while another serves at tables, but never let us think that we are any better than others God is using or that we are deserving of greater blessings. We might tarry by the stuff, but we are just as important to the growth of the Kingdom as those who go out to do battle.