Monday, July 19, 2010

The problem with answering roughly

A great lesson for anyone in a position of leadership and guidance is found in 1 Kings 12. Rehoboam, son of Solomon, is the new king of Israel. Jeroboam, a leader from the tribe of Ephraim, joined other representatives from the other tribes of Israel and came to the new king, seeking an ease to their burdens. Solomon’s heavy building program and military requirements had taxed the people greatly both in time and monetary possessions.

The king listened to their grievances and told them to come back in three days for an answer.

During that time, “king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?”

“And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.”

Such wise words! If you want people to love you and follow you and be loyal to you—serve them, address and answer their needs, encourage and praise them with your words.

But Rehoboam didn’t like the counsel (it took too much effort on his part) so he went to his buddies, “The young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:

"And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

“And the young men…spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people…My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.

“And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

Now, maybe his buddies justified the response by claiming if you give someone an inch they will take a mile. If you let them change your mind on one issue, they will be clamoring for you to change your mind on every issue. It could have been a classic fear-the-foot-in-the-door warning. They may have even told Rehoboam his kingdom was as stake, that this request meant a rebellion was brewing.

So, the king took their advice and “answered the people roughly.”

Well, he got his rebellion--because he started it. From that point on the family of Israel was divided.

Now let's fast-forward to our time. What do you do when your teenage son comes to you and says he’s tired of mowing the lawn every week; that he always has to do it? Do you sit down with him and say, yes, you have been mowing it every week for several years, what can I do to help make it easier? Or, do you answer him roughly, say it’s his responsibility and if he complains more about it you will make him weed the garden, too?

What about when your daughter comes and says she doesn’t have time to do the dishes tonight because she has to be to volleyball practice. Do you say she should have thought of that sooner and started her dishes earlier? Or, do you say let me go help you and we’ll try to get as much done together before you go?

What about with your spouse? If something they are doing, or not doing, is hurtful or disappointing, do you honestly think speaking roughly to them is the way to win their loyalty, get them to change, and improve your marriage?

Family life is no different now than in Rehoboam's time. While no family is perfect, more families should follow the first advice. We are here to serve one another, address and answer the needs of our children and our partners, to encourage and praise them with our words. Then we will have the love and loyalty in our families that will bind us together forever.

Sadly, however, I feel too many families follow the path of Rehoboam and answer each other roughly.

Remember the Savior’s words: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt 23:11)

Isaiah spoke Messianically of this service in Isaiah 61:1-3. “The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings…bind up the brokenhearted…proclaim liberty to the captive…(open) the prison to them that are bound…give unto them beauty for ashes…praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

If we are to be like Christ and follow His example then we, too, must do the same. We must preach good tidings, not speak roughly. We must repair broken hearts and, when family members are held captive by the demands of life, we are to help them find more liberty, even go to work and open the prisons doors that stand in their way. We are called give them beauty and hope when their life is full of ashes, and encourage them with honest praise when they are burdened under the spirit of heaviness.

Then we are promised, in Isaiah 61: 4, the waste places will be built up, the former desolations will be repaired.

Our families will be built up and our relationships will be repaired. They will be ours forever...because they will want to be with us.


  1. Sister T., what a great way of looking at things.

    I think it's too easy to begin to think people in our life are obstacles to doing things "right", when really our obstacle is our own pride and lack of patience. It takes a lot of faith, hope and charity to react correctly, and I think that's the idea.

  2. T Lynn,
    Great post. I'm sending it to someone who has a teenage son. This will really hit spot with her.