Speaking the Truth in Love

The Best of the Best

Teenagers long to excel in something important to them. James studies tirelessly, hoping to be the class valedictorian. Heather monitors every bite of food and follows all the beauty tips in her teen magazines, hoping to be chosen homecoming queen. Drew spends endless hours lifting weights and running, hoping to become the most valuable player on the football team. Kaitlyn wears designer clothes and drives an expensive sports car, hoping to be recognized as the richest girl in school.

This youthful pursuit of supremacy reflects the American value system—but not necessarily the biblical value system. Yes, Solomon does advise us: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccles. 9:10). A righteous person does all of his tasks diligently and responsibly. But being the very best is no guarantee of success or happiness.

Three of King David’s close relatives illustrate this. Asahel, David’s nephew, was the fastest runner in the Bible. In battle he pursued and caught Israel’s commander Abner, who was a slower runner but also a stronger warrior. Asahel died with a spear driven through his belly and protruding from his back. Absalom, one of David’s sons, was the most handsome man in the Bible. No blemish of any kind marred his good looks. In a battle pitched against his own father, however, Absalom’s life came to a bitter end. He died hanging by his head from the branches of an oak tree, his chest pierced with javelins. Solomon, another son of David and heir to his throne, was the richest and smartest man in the Bible. Solomon’s personal life was a failure, though. In his older years he dishonored the God who had blessed him and instead worshiped pagan deities.

Being first is no guarantee of personal success. What matters is making the Lord first. “In all your ways acknowledge him,” the Bible says, “and he will make straight your paths” (Prov. 3:6).

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