We whose experience with war is only from a movie or TV screen need to really understand something: War is very very ugly. Nowhere is man’s inhumanity to man better demonstrated than on the battlefield. I’m not a pacifist—I served for six years in the Army, and I’m glad I did—but it’s a reality of life which everyone should take to heart.
Around the 1st half of the 20th century, the nations gathered together and tried to regulate the conduct of soldiers in wartime. They came up with some rules for the battlefield: You don’t target civilians, you don’t torture or summarily execute prisoners, etc. Of course, just because we have these rules in place doesn’t mean they’re always followed in the “fog of war,” but at least we’re making the attempt.
Today’s passage is especially gruesome, isn’t it? The prophet describes the actions of Ammon. True, this conduct was fairly common in warfare. The ancients thoroughly and enthusiastically practiced what we call “total warfare”: You kill every person on the enemy side you can get your hands on, and the only rule they seemed to follow was “Be as cruel as you can.”
But the Lord held them to a higher standard than what they were used to; otherwise, he wouldn’t have condemned them. So what exactly was he upset about? Ripping open pregnant women would be bad enough. He’s the Giver of Life, and anything like this must grieve him.
But the inspired prophet takes care to note the motive behind this carnage: “in order to extend his borders.”
My friend, when we talk about “greed,” we're usually referring to a love for money, an insatiable desire for more wealth. But there are more forms of greed than lust for money. Like Hitler, Ammon wanted some more “living space,” and he decided to take it at the expense of his neighbor.
Once again, I need to issue a disclaimer: The Bible is not against people wanting to improve their living conditions. If you desire a raise at work, a better home, or a nicer nest-egg to leave your children, there’s nothing wrong in that in and of itself.
The question really is: “What are you willing to do to obtain what you want?” Today’s passage gives the extreme answer that some are willing to give.
Let me get onto a side-note on this for a moment. I’m not God, and I don’t know people’s hearts or motives. But I have to point out that Planned Parenthood makes millions of dollars off the abortion industry. It might be that you could find sincere people who are organizing and facilitating abortions because they really believe they're helping women. But I can't help noticing that they sure are making a lot of money doing it.
Again, though, when I stand before my Lord one day to give an account, the questions he asks me won’t be about Planned Parenthood’s actions. He'll question me about how well I served him.
So here are some questions for me. How important are material possessions to me? If my Savior asked me to give them up--like he asked the rich young ruler--what would be my response? Anything other than “Done” with a smile on my face would be the wrong answer. If material possessions are not too important to me, then how is that reflected in my budget? Do I spend too much of it on myself, or am I generous enough with it towards those who need it?
Certainly I wouldn’t go to the extremes of greed that the Ammonites went to, but I probably hold on to “my” possessions a lot tighter than I should.
What about you?
Lord Jesus, I want what you want for me. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing other. How easy it is to fill my life with stuff and things which will only be dust and ashes someday. Whatever gets in between you and me, please remove it. Whatever it is.