David's Materialism

Year B Revised Common Lectionary
Proper 12(17)

2 Samuel 11:1-15(CEV) It was now spring, the time when kings go to war. David sent out the whole Israelite army under the command of Joab and his officers. They destroyed the Ammonite army and surrounded the capital city of Rabbah, but David stayed in Jerusalem. 2-4Late one afternoon, David got up from a nap and was walking around on the flat roof of his palace. A beautiful young woman was down below in her courtyard, bathing as her religion required. David happened to see her, and he sent one of his servants to find out who she was. The servant came back and told David, "Her name is Bathsheba. She is the daughter of Eliam, and she is the wife of Uriah the Hittite."

4David sent some messengers to bring her to his palace. She came to him, and he slept with her. Then she returned home. 5But later, when she found out that she was going to have a baby, she sent someone to David with this message: "I'm pregnant!"

6David sent a message to Joab: "Send Uriah the Hittite to me."

Joab sent Uriah
7to David's palace, and David asked him, "Is Joab well? How is the army doing? And how about the war?" 8Then David told Uriah, "Go home and clean up." Uriah left the king's palace, and David had dinner sent to Uriah's house. 9But Uriah didn't go home. Instead, he slept outside the entrance to the royal palace, where the king's guards slept. 10Someone told David that Uriah had not gone home. So the next morning David asked him, "Why didn't you go home? Haven't you been away for a long time?"

11Uriah answered, "The sacred chest and the armies of Israel and Judah are camping out somewhere in the fields with our commander Joab and his officers and troops. Do you really think I would go home to eat and drink and sleep with my wife? I swear by your life that I would not!" 12Then David said, "Stay here in Jerusalem today, and I will send you back tomorrow."

Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day. Then the next day,
13David invited him for dinner. Uriah ate with David and drank so much that he got drunk, but he still did not go home. He went out and slept on his mat near the palace guards. 14Early the next morning, David wrote a letter and told Uriah to deliver it to Joab. 15The letter said: "Put Uriah on the front line where the fighting is the worst. Then pull the troops back from him, so that he will be wounded and die."

This is a queer congregation. I realize some of people here today not relate to the story of David and Bathsheba. You may need to change the names to make the story relevant. Should you need to change the names to Davidia and Bathsheba, or to David and Bob to apply this Bible story to your life, you have my permission to do that. Of course, I suspect you would do that anyway. Now you don't have to feel guilty.

I doubt the official history book King David would have commissioned to document his reign as the King of Israel would contain the story of Bathsheba.1 This helps illustrate the point that the Bible is not written to glorify the children of Israel or any person.2 The Bible is not a book of the history of a people, a nation or a person. The Bible is about the Eternal.

The Old Testament lesson sounds like something off a modern CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) program. There are all of the elements that make for good suspense - a war, a forbidden love story, plotting and murder. The only difference is that the person who breaks the case is a prophet of God, not a scientist.

David woke from a siesta and went up to the roof. The roofs were flat, so one could easily walk around on one's roof. David might have gone up on the roof in the early evening, to enjoy the cooler evening air.3 As David is on the roof, he sees a heavenly body, Bathsheba. And this heavenly body was bathing.

She must have been impressive. David had a servant find out who she was and promptly invited her to the palace for romance. After their romantic encounter, Bathsheba becomes pregnant. The story mentions that she was clean, after her menstrual cycle, so all would understand that David, not her husband Uriah, was the father.4

To hide his mistake, David invites Uriah home from the war. His hope is that he will go home and sleep with his wife Bathsheba. Then everybody will think the Uriah is the father. David even tried to get Uriah drunk enough that he would sleep with Bathsheba.

Uriah lived by the religious code.5 According to religious code, he was not supposed to have sexual relationships during war. I suspect the rationale is that romance is a distraction. Soldiers who are not able to focus fully on combat could be at a disadvantage. Many high school and college students have found that romance and good grades did not mix for them. Their focus was taken off school work.

David's focus was off the important things of the nation, was off serving the Lord, and his mind wandered. He wanted what somebody else had. Biblical thought is that David's mistake was very costly. Nathan, the prophet who breaks the case, tells David that God will take away David's wives.6 Biblical writers tell us God killed David and Bathsheba's son, because of David's sin.7

I almost see a link between our very materialistic society and David's mistake. This might seem like a bit of a stretch, but women in the ancient world tended to be viewed as the property of their husbands. While women in Jewish tradition tended to be held in higher regard than in some other cultures, women were still not equal to men. In a world where women tended to be viewed as property, this is almost as much a sin of materialism as it is of a sin related to sex. I do not think very many of us will ever be in a situation where we are able to do what David did, but there are times when materialism is costly for us and keeps us from doing things that God would like us to do for humanity and that God would like us to do for ourselves.

There are times when we lose focus of the important things and that can be costly. There is nothing wrong with having wonderful things, but there are times when the little trophies of life get in the way of important things.

When I was in college, I got caught up in 35 mm camera materialism. I dressed like a little grub worm, but my camera was top-notch! I purchased an expensive camera, one that uses Carl Zeiss lenses, probably more to keep up with the Joneses than out of legit need. I used my camera for one of my college jobs and the camera more than paid for itself, but I could have done very good work with a much cheaper camera. And more money could have gone toward things I needed more - like clothes that were not so worn out no self-respecting trash can would take them!

I know I am not the only person with a bit of a materialistic tendency. I get that sense when I park in my parking stall. My little car snuggles between a Mercedes and an Audi. I love ruining a good neighborhood! Those snooty cars benefit from frequent contact with a Joe 6-pack car!

One-ton, crew-cab trucks often pass me on the highway. They have diesel engines, so zipping down the highway with for quads on a trailer is not a problem. If you do not have an expensive imported car, or an extended-cab truck, with 4-wheel drive and a diesel engine you are nobody!

The result of our materialistic culture is a high level of personal debt. The high debt level we carry prevents us from reaching out to assist the impoverished around the world. We just don't have the money left over, after we pay for our toys.

And we have political leaders who do not seem to understand that wealth is a responsibility. Part of the responsibility that comes with wealth is to share our wealth with those who are not as fortunate as we are.

Materialism can creep into church circles. In church, the toys of materialism can be positions. I've seen the costly results of people in churches who wanted what belonged to others. In some churches, you see people chasing after the pastor's positions, when they do not have the academic or spiritual qualifications to do the work. I am not sure I can begin to adequately explain the problems that can cause for a church. Churches can be hurt for years by the actions of a person who tried to force a pastor out of the church, so he or she could take over that role! I've seen a few cases where people got up in church and give sermons or reflections that wounded people emotionally and spiritually. I think this was a direct result of stepping into the pulpit without having a good understanding of how serious the responsibility is. I do not even want to get into the fighting that can take place among church musicians, as people wanted things - positions - that did not belong to them.

There are times when materialism, when keeping up with the Joneses comes back to bite us in our personal lives. Some people feel pressured to get married, and end up in bad marriages, because all their friends were getting married. Some queer people wanted all the things they felt straights had, so they attempted to live a straight life, only to find out they were desperately unhappy.

Through the story of David's mistake, I believe God is asking us to think about the priorities of our life, to focus on those priorities and to not place more importance on getting what the neighbors have than on the really important things of life. And God is moving to help us understand what is important, and to focus on more than just the toys of life.


1 Christian Community Bible. (Quezon City, Philippines: Claretian Pub., 1999), 321.
2 Kenneth Barker, et. al. eds. The NIV Study Bible. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Pub. House, 1995), 433.
3 Barker, et. al., 434.
4 Christian Community Bible, 321.
5 Christian Community Bible, 321.
6 2 Samuel 2:11.
7 2 Samuel 2:14-15.