FOUR LESSONS FOR LIFE
By Bob Mueller
Bishop with the United Catholic Church
One of my favorite Bible stories is the one about two mothers claiming the same baby. They lived together in the same house, and both had given birth to babies about the same time. One baby died. The mothers came to King Solomon. One said that the other woman’s child had died in the night, and that woman arose and took her living son from her side and laid the dead child next to her. When she woke up and saw the dead child after carefully looking at the child, she realized it was not the one she had given birth to. However, the other woman said, “No that did not happen; it was her child who died and not mine.” So they asked King Solomon to settle the dispute as to who was the rightful mother of the living child.
Solomon, being a very wise man, immediately saw the way to settle the issue. He said, “Bring me a sword.” The king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.”
One of the women agreed to that settlement, but the other mother began to cry and said, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and in no way slay it.” The king decided that she was, in truth, the mother of the child, so he awarded the child to her. He realized that the one who would rather give up the child than see it killed was the real mother. You can read this story in 1 Kings 3:16-28. It is not only a story with great human interest, but also one that teaches us some of the most important lessons in life.
The Futility of the Sword. The first lesson we see here is the futility of the sword. Suppose Solomon had actually used the sword and cut the baby in half? Neither of the mothers would have had a live baby, and the world would have been forever robbed of a life.
After the First World War, Sherwood Eddy, a very wise man, summed up that war in these words: “The saddest thing is not that some ten million of our best men are dead, that the world is impoverished, victimized, embittered by hate, rent by suspicion and fear. It is that we have settled nothing, made nothing safe, achieved no lasting good.” The fact that he was right, everlastingly right, is proven by the fact that the next generation did it all over again in what we called the Second World War. When the Second World War was all over, all the issues that started the war remained. Nothing was settled.
We need to learn life’s lesson that we do not settle anything by fighting. Not by fighting with our wives or husbands, not by fighting with our parents or children, not by fighting with the people we work with, not be fighting with anybody. You do not win by fighting your way through life.
The Limits of Compromise. In that story of the living baby, King Solomon demonstrated the limits of compromise. Many times compromise makes trading possible. If one person what to buy something from another person, it may be that the buyer will not be willing to give the asking price, so he will offer a lower price. Then the seller will say, “No, but I will come down from my asking price,” so they go until they reach a price on which they can both agree.”
In this connection I have a silly story. A boy proposed to a girl. She accepted his proposal on the condition that he would save $10,000. He got a job in another city and went off to seek his fortune. She did not hear from him for nearly a year; in fact, she was getting a bit worried. Finally he came back. She asked him, “Have you saved the $10,000?” “No,” he replied, “I have saved only $750 so far.” “Well,” she answered, “That nearly enough. Let’s get married.”
We like people who are willing to compromise, who do not insist on having their own way all the time. There are occasions when we need to give in to each other. Compromise plays a very important role in the home and business and through our lives. No person should always completely insist on his or her way.
On the other hand, there are times when compromise is the very wrong thing to attempt. This baby belonged either to one mother or the other. Dividing it between them was not possible.
No compromise can be achieved in mathematics. Two times two is four. It makes no difference what the circumstances are. There is no way that two times two can be anything else but four.
At times no compromise is possible in questions of right and wrong and questions of good and evil. Either God exists or God does not. There is no compromise on that question. Neither can we compromise in the fields of honesty or integrity or in the principles of good and evil. Every person has certain foundation beliefs that cannot be compromised without the person being severely hurt.
The Best Things in Life Cannot Be Divided. The baby could not be divided. There are two types of things in the world: quantities and entities. A pound of butter is a quantity. If you have a pound of butter, you can give half to a friend and keep the other half. The same can be said of a dozen eggs or a quart of milk. A beggar might come to you, and you can share your bread with him. On the other hand, you cannot share your coat with him. A piece of bread is a quantity, so is a pound of butter or a quart of milk; but a coat is an entity, and it cannot be divided with being destroyed. Your watch cannot be cut in half and be preserved, neither can a beautiful painting, a lovely song, an inspiring poem, or a beautiful rose. Some of the best and most important things in life cannot be divided.
A Realm Beyond Mathematics. There is a realm in life where mathematics does not apply. We say that two times two is always four. If we find one instance where two times two is five or three, then we would destroy all mathematics.
On the other hand half a baby plus half a baby does not equal a whole baby, and there are many other instances of this. I stood with a young couple recently as we buried their baby who had died. You cannot explain that experience simply by saying that three minus one equals two. The realm of mathematics does not explain many of life’s most important experiences.
A father and mother can make their wills and leave their wealth to their children, but they can give to each child only a share of their wealth. However, when that couple’s first child was born, they gave to that child all their love. After a while a second child was born, and they gave all their love to that second child; yet they loved the first child just as much. They could have had four children or six children or eight children and given to each of their children all their love. Love is a realm where mathematics does not apply.
Most Rev. Robert Muller is a bishop in the United Catholic Church. He is the pastor of Good Samaritan Church in Louisville, KY. As a bishop of the UCC, he is responsible for the Faith Communities, Finance and Correspondence for the jurisdiction. He is the author the Gentle Art of Caring, Weddings - Love, Beauty and Laughter, all available on Amazon.