Not for Sale

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First Kings 21 records the story of two men whose choices and characters stand in stark contrast to each other. The one man said, in essence, “What I have is not for sale.” The other is described as having “sold himself to work wickedness.” It is the story of Naboth and his vineyard, the sulking King and his plotting wife, and the faithful prophet Elijah. It happened a very long time ago. The whole event sounds remarkably contemporary. It is a story of timeless things: of discontentment and oppression, of corruption and injustice, of an unflinching stand for Truth, and ultimately of the judgment of God.
Little is recorded about Naboth. We know he lived in Jezreel next to King Ahab’s palace. He tended a vineyard on a piece of property that his father and grandfather had also farmed. But most of all, we know he was a man of faith who loved God and valued obedience more dearly than His life.
And so it happened that Ahab paid Naboth a visit one day and said, “ Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.”
But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee.”
Why did Naboth refuse the sale of his vineyard? Were there no other suitable places to grow grapes in Jezreel? Did the king not offer him enough money? Naboth rejected the sale because God had explicitly instructed Israel, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev 25:23). And, “So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers” (Num 36:7).
Naboth understood the land was God’s. He was a sojourner. He was a steward. He was accountable. And so he replied, “It’s not for sale!”
Naboth understood the land was an inheritance. It was his to work, but more importantly, to protect. He had the responsibility of making sure that land would be handed down to his children and their children and from generation to generation. Though he was but one man, he was an integral link in the chain of God’s will and God’s blessing. If he failed in his generation, the next generation would have nothing to inherit and nothing to pass on.
We have also been given a vineyard on loan. One of the vines in that vineyard is the Eternal Word of God we hold in our hands. If we treasure it highly, we will read it, live it, preserve it, and pass it on to the next generation. “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2Ti 2:2). Don’t sell it. Don’t let the devil barter with us over truth. “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Pro 23:23b).
Another vine in our heritage vineyard is the church life we are enjoying. This includes a range of Mennonite traditions; four-part harmony gospel singing, Sunday School, revival meetings, Spirit-filled worship, formal dress for worship, segregated seating, etc. While these things aren’t infallible and some may even need to be reevaluated occasionally, we must be very careful about selling them cheaply when God would have us say, “This is not for sale.” Because many of these practices were handed to the current generation rather than us needing to give our lives for them, we may be tempted to put a lower price tag on them than God would desire.
Another vine in the vineyard that has been an important part of our heritage is our Christian Day Schools. What price tag will we put on that? How much would be too much? Are we willing to make a significant sacrifice for the sake of godly education?
One of the keys to placing a “priceless” tag on these things is to develop a heart of gratefulness and thanksgiving to God by blessing Him often for them.
We are also attacked in very personal ways with offers to sell the things that God says are not for sale. How much is our purity worth? Is it for sale? Some have sold it cheap. They have traded their purity and innocence away to the Internet, to movies, or to pornography. Stand fast and say, “It is not for sale!”
How much is a clear conscience worth? Some have sold it dirt cheap. They have harbored guilt and sin instead of confession in exchange for a “good” reputation. Can we say, “My clear conscience is not for sale; there’s no price high enough to buy it?"
And finally, how much is our soul worth? Is it for sale to the highest bidder? Some have traded eternity for drugs, alcohol, pleasure, or friendships. Others have traded for a life of ease, counting the cost of carrying the cross too high. We have been given the gift of any eternal soul. Nothing in this world is worth trading for our souls. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mar 8:36-37). Say with all our heart, “It is not for sale!”
I wish the story of Naboth had a nicer ending, but it doesn’t. A man and woman who had sold themselves to work unrighteousness schemed to have Naboth’s life ended for selfish reasons. We live in a world of Ahabs and Jezebels who are using the age-old tactics Satan utilized in the Garden. They appeal to our lusts. They deceive and twist the truth. How will we fare? Will we stand and say, “I’m not for sale?”
We see people in this generation making very reckless deals. They are trading their traditional Mennonite upbringing for a life patterned after the world. They are buying Satan’s lie that the only way to reach the world is to be like them. Time will continue to reveal the real cost of that trade-off.
We have what we have, mostly because the last generation did not fail. The heritage that is passed on to the next generation will be directly impacted by our choices today. God help us to be faithful, and to make it known that we are not for sale.