Today, we will read 1 Kings chapter 10. It is the last happy chapter in Solomon’s story before his decline as king of Israel. I would like to reflect on 3 topics from this chapter: (1) the source of wealth; (2) attitudes towards money; and finally, (3) what we can learn from the Queen of Sheba.[Read 1 Kings 10]
Israel was doing very well economically. The details in this chapter are meant to impress the reader. 10 times, the word “gold” is mentioned.
Imagine you’re a tourist visiting Solomon’s palace. Everything is covered in gold. Not just the king’s throne but even the plates and cups and forks. Verse 21 says, “Nothing was made from silver, because silver was considered of little value in Solomon’s days.”
Verse 22 tells us that foreign trade was going well, giving Solomon gold, silver, ivory, and exotic animals. Verse 24 says, “The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart.” Not only was he rich; he was also respected as a wise man.
The source of wealth
What was the source of Solomon’s wealth and wisdom? Verse 24 says clearly that God put that wisdom in Solomon’s heart. Why did God give him wisdom?
Let’s review chapter 3, verses 11-13. God said to Solomon, “Since you have asked for [wisdom], and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both riches and honor – so that in your lifetime, you will have no equal among kings.”
So, in chapter 10, we see that God has fulfilled this promise made over 20 years earlier.
Chapter 10 also makes a few comments about the source of Solomon’s success. For example, verse 9 says, “Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.”
In other words, Solomon’s life and achievements were not just a result of human ambition. The writer of 1 Kings gives the credit to God. God, in his “eternal love for Israel,” wanted the nation to prosper under a wise and righteous king. Why? Is it not just to make people happy; ultimately, it is to draw all people towards God, including foreign nations.
What can we learn from this as modern-day Christians? I would suggest the lesson is not about accumulating gold, silver, apes, and baboons. Instead, let me suggest three lessons.
First, let’s be grateful to God, who gives us good things. Deuteronomy chapter 8 says to thank God for good things in our lives. Let’s read Deuteronomy 8 verse 10: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.” And verse 18: “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant.”
Second, let’s worship God, not His blessings. For example, if God gives me a car, what is my response? Do I feel superior because I have a car and my peers don’t? Do I go crazy when someone scratches my car? How much time do I spend cleaning my car? How much time do I spend working so I can buy a more expensive, prestigious car? Actually, what matters is not the car but the condition of my heart towards God.
Third, let’s use our gifts to serve God. If I have a car, will I use it to help people? Or am I afraid they will ruin my beautiful car seat by sitting on it?
If we are truly grateful, we can surrender our gifts back to the Giver. I’m reminded of a Malaysian uncle in my wife’s church. He was a partner in one of the world’s biggest accounting firms. He lives in a gigantic house in a neighborhood with many large houses.
Besides contributing his wealth, time, and leadership to the church, this uncle also gives his time to young people, building relationships with them through sports. He also tries to share the gospel with neighbors in the wealthy area where he lives.
I feel he is an example of someone who recognizes God as the source of his blessings, and who offers the gifts back to God.
Attitudes towards money
Now, some of us may feel uncomfortable with the idea of great wealth. What does the Bible say about money?
One of the many passages which addresses money is in 1 Timothy 6. Verse 10 says, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
So, the Bible says that the love of money is a problem. However, it does not say that money itself is evil.
I suggest that we should avoid idolizing money, but at the same time, let’s not despise money.
I read about a tribe in Sudan where the women and children enjoy drinking milk. In this tribe, the men also enjoy milk. However, the men feel it’s wrong to drink milk, because they perceive it as a drink for women and children. So, whenever the men drink milk, first they have to change it into a “man’s drink.” How? By adding cow’s urine to it.
So, allow me to ask: Is there something wrong with milk? Is milk bad? Likewise, money in itself is not evil. What you do with money is what matters.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit society, suggested that we be willing to receive either riches or poverty. He wrote, “We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.” St. Ignatius said that earthly things should be used to help us fulfil our greatest purpose. Which is to praise, worship, and serve our God.
Is it wrong to think about money? Is it wrong to save money, or look for a higher-paying job? No. What matters is the motive.
For Christians, I think we should see money as a tool. For example, we use it to take care of our families. But we do not trust money to provide us a secure future. Because only God can do that. And God is pleased to care for His children.
Regardless of our different life situations, Jesus’ teaching is true for everyone. He says, in Matthew 6:31, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Verse 33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Let us choose to see God as the true source of our happiness, security, and fulfilment. As we pursue many goals in life, let’s not forget to pursue God above all. It’s not wrong to desire more money; the question is, do we desire God more?
The Queen of Sheba
Let me end with one more reflection on 1 Kings 10. So far, I haven’t talked about the Queen of Sheba, a prominent character in this chapter.
The Queen’s visit to Solomon is a beautiful picture of Gentiles being drawn to the wisdom of God. “Gentiles” is the word that Jewish people like Solomon used to describe anyone non-Jewish. Although the Jews are God’s chosen people, God also wants all nations to know Him and receive His blessings. The Queen of Sheba symbolizes the outsider who recognizes God’s greatness and wisdom.
Jesus once used the Queen of Sheba as an illustration in his teaching. This is in Matthew chapter 12, verse 42.
Here, Jesus warns the Jewish leaders, “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.”
Jesus was saying: The Queen of Sheba wasn’t even Jewish; yet she acknowledged and wanted to learn the wisdom of God in a Jewish king. Jesus is greater than Solomon, and yet the Jewish leaders did not recognize him. They did not realize He was the King that God had sent. So, they were in danger of God’s judgment.
For ourselves, let’s ask: Do I seek the wisdom and ways of God? Do I recognize Jesus, whom God has sent to guide me? From who do I seek guidance in life? Is it from successful businessmen, inspirational speakers, my parents, my friends?
Ultimately, true wisdom and blessing come from God. Amidst the other voices in our life, and amidst our ambitions, do we stop to seek the voice of God?
If you do not know Jesus, who reveals the wisdom of God, I hope you will seek Him. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Let’s be like the Queen of Sheba, who approached Solomon with hard questions. Approach God with a desire to listen and obey.