Solomon presents a remarkable case of both a life lived wholly for God and a life tragically fragmented by divided loves. At his best, Solomon shows how every aspect of life and work can be transformed by the love of God; at his worst, he shows how subtle divisions can sneak into the human endeavor and grow into fissures large enough to divide a kingdom.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deut. 6:4-9).
Solomon understands that his love of the Lord must find application in the ways in which he leads his people and secures their prosperity.
As a result, his rise to power is vigorous, innovative, and just. As he pursues the Lord in his statecraft, he finds successes without precedent, but as he succumbs to other loyalties, he fundamentally loses the kingdom he worked so hard to attain. His story reminds us of other tragic stories of leaders, pastors, community leaders, politicians, and others whose early success gave way to public failure. As such, his story should provide one part encouragement and one part warning.
Solomon’s rise shows us that we err if we think of biblical faith as merely a personal, internal activity, with little effect on the world around us. Solomon’s fall shows us that the divided heart can result in far-reaching failure and instability (James 1:8).
The teaching of the Shema provides a grand biblical metaethic that can be used to explain many such stories and teachings found in the scriptures. The inner-outer dynamic that begins with heartfelt love that extends to the whole of the self and the whole of a person’s effect in the world finds expression throughout the history of Israel, the preaching of the prophets, and ultimately the character and teaching of the Jesus Christ.
Applying the ‘Shema’ as Followers of Christ
When Christ calls the Shema the “greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:34-40), he means it. God has laid claim to the whole of human existence and he means to see that claim fulfilled through the work of salvation. Those who believe are united with Christ, and through the power of his spirit, their hearts are directed daily to the sort of love described in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
In fact, as “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:17), Christians must recognize that every aspect of human experience falls under the influence of saving faith. Never a small thing in scripture, this expansive vision of biblical faith leaves no stone unturned, but instead appropriates every inclination, thought, gifting, personal relationship, vocational exercise, and property for the glory of the God who desires our whole affections. Any attempts to minimize this expansive vision or to perforate the human life, creating a division of loyalties, ultimately diminish the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of scripture. When it comes to the claims of divine lordship, we should not shy away from universals.
The scriptures call us, as followers of Christ, to a significant paradigm shift. Whether we are blessed with abundant wealth or modest means, we ought to recognize the opportunity available to us to show our love for God in the way that we steward our riches. As we seek to praise the God from whom all blessings flow, and give glory to the Lord from whom and through whom are all things (Rom. 11:36), we can celebrate together that this praise and glory is not merely a private, personal endeavor but one that extends to every aspect of our lives.
Editor’s note: Read more on Solomon and wholehearted stewardship in Wholehearted: A Biblical Look at the Greatest Commandment and Personal Wealth by Scott Redd.
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