“When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him and put him to death and beheaded him. They took his head and went by the way of the Arabah all night, and brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, ‘Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life. The Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.’” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you ever done something foolish to impress someone? What was it? In high school I participated in a summer arts program that included a trip to Santa Fe, NM. Walking around the hotel where we spent the few days we were there, some of the friends I had made during the summer goaded me into stealing a hot water sign from in front of a carafe in a hospitality station. It was wrong on many levels, not to mention just stupid, but I wanted to be cool. What a dummy.
Now, that was a pretty minor offense all things considered (though no less morally compromised and sinful than, say, murder), but the deeper issue of participating in a foolish act that crosses the line into sin in order to impress or curry favor with another person is one that has entrapped far more people than would perhaps care to admit it. That’s exactly what we see here.
Baanah and Rechab, wanted to impress the soon-to-be new king. They wanted to gain favor with him and, hopefully, a position in his government. So, they did what made perfect sense in their time. They killed David’s rival to the throne. With the competition thus eliminated, the way was now paved for David to stroll right on into the kingship. Then, they cut off his head and brought it to the king as evidence (because they didn’t have phones with cameras and social media to document the deed).
They paid for their grisly deed with their lives. This was just and right and David corrected the error he made with Joab. But the bigger issue here is that they didn’t understand whose favor was more important to curry. That what trips us up when we do foolish things to try and impress people.
In the grand scheme of things, the good opinion of other people is not entirely without significance, especially where it is a proper reflection of our character, but it’s not nearly as important as God’s opinion. It is so easy to fall into the trap here, though. The problem is, we can see the other people. Failing to impress them can have real social consequences. There may be economic or even employment consequences. The pressure to do this thing may be intense.
But God’s opinion matters more. Things which separate us from Him are not worth doing no matter what the immediate or even lifetime consequences may be. Eternity’s longer. A lot longer. Even things which aren’t necessarily sinful, but are just foolish (even dangerous), though, aren’t worth doing if they are done purely to impress or otherwise gain the favor of another person. They are a symptom of a small idolatry—an elevation of this person or group of people over God—which, if left uncorrected, can eventually become a big idolatry and make a mess of our lives. It’s just not worth it.
Value the opinions of others as a reflection of your humility, but do not value them over God’s own opinion. Don’t ask what will impress the most people or gain the most favor for yourself, but what is wise. When wisdom is our guide, favor—the right kind and from the right people—will always be our reward.