“And Nabal answered David’s servants, ‘Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?’” (ESV – Read the chapter)
We live in a day of declining manners. The state of public dialogue is growing coarser and coarser. This is a truly lamentable fact. Unfortunately, this doesn’t represent some kind of advance, but a great step backward with folks like Nabal as our guide.
Nabal had unknowingly received free help with his flocks and herds. In that day, bandits were a common affair. When a man like Nabal sent out his flocks to graze, they would travel fairly far and wide. He had to have shepherds he trusted explicitly and even then, until they came back at the time for shearing, he didn’t know what was going on with them. To have had someone like David and his men basically offer free guard service—a service his own trusted shepherds testified to be both helpful and honorable—was a huge gift. For David and his men to in turn ask this very wealthy man to share with them what he might have given his servants for doing such a labor was an entirely reasonable request.
An honorable man might have fulfilled it to the extent he was capable. Nabal was not an honorable man. Instead of responding graciously, Nabal responded harshly and rudely. As a result, he deeply offended a powerful warrior with a troop of 400 battle-hardened soldiers and who was grieving the recent death of his beloved mentor. In other words, he yanked on a lion’s tale and was about to get mauled. But for the quick-thinking graciousness of his much-too-good-for-him wife, he would have been.
Here’s what all of this means for us: When someone has asked something from or of us, we always have a choice in how we will respond. We can respond with kindness and graciousness, or we can follow Nabal’s path of being harsh and rude, arrogant and unkind. The former will always lead to a positive end even if we cannot fulfill the request as desired for some reason. It will engender good and close relationships and make dialogue even with our ideological opposites something that is not only possible, but also productive.
The latter will only ever lead to trouble. It will create a climate of mistrust and ingratitude that will make even the most basic interactions frightfully more difficult. It will increase our basic sense of tribalism where if you’re not part of my group, you are by default an enemy. What good is this? Manners are free. We serve a God who is unfailingly gracious. Let’s follow suit and make the world around us that much better.