THE WIFE OF NABAL
"A little more grace, a motive made pure, a few truths tenderly told, a heart softened, a character subdued, a life consecrated, would restore the right action of the mental mechanism, and make manifest the movement of body and soul in accord with God." Thus states Mary Baker Eddy in "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 354). The mental mechanism to which Mrs. Eddy refers must move in the right direction in order to produce a right result. Selfishness and sin, if not corrected, are disastrous to harmonious action.
The Bible contains many object lessons indicating that right action brings harmonious results—lessons greatly illumined by Christian Science. One is the story of Nabal and David as found in the twenty-fifth chapter of I Samuel.
Nabal was a rich man who lived at Maon. He had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats grazing on the slopes of Carmel. But with all his wealth, Nabal was a churlish creature. His wife, Abigail, admitted as much to David. "Nabal is his name," she said, "and folly is with him." Nabal gave little thought to the courtesies of life. He was wealthy, and may have thought his riches would command respect without the exercise of the sentiments. Thus in his perverted view of life Nabal entertained a false material sense of substance. No doubt his material possessions impressed his neighbors; perhaps they induced a sense of servility on the part of the lesser landowners of the district, and this gratified his pride and tickled his ambition.
But there came a day when material values could not help him. Nabal was sheepshearing in Carmel, gathering in the wool. David, a poor fugitive, was hiding from the wrath of Saul. He sent ten young men to ask Nabal for assistance, to which, by the laws of Oriental courtesy, he was entitled. Nabal was angered at the request. '"Who is David?" he asked with scorn. "There be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master." Such flagrant discourtesy was a call to action. "Gird ye on every man his sword," was David's answer. The mental temperature was rising, clouds were gathering; a detonation of passions seemed inevitable.
At this juncture a woman's wisdom and gentleness came to the rescue. Abigail, hearing of David's warlike intentions, went down to meet him, riding upon an ass. Bowing herself to the ground, she humbly took upon herself the sins of her husband, Nabal. "Upon me, my lord," she said, "upon me let this iniquity be." David listened to this Christlike emissary. His heart was touched, his pride subdued, his anger abated. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me," he cried. "And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand."
Abigail had won her first encounter with error, not by the sword, but by gentleness. Meanwhile Nabal's conduct had gone from bad to worse. Insobriety followed lack of charity. He was certainly careering downhill.
Abigail chose a propitious moment to speak with him. There appeared to be no hint of condemnation in her approach—no self-pity for the shame he had brought upon the home, only a gentle, Christlike desire to help a husband to regain his liberty. Perhaps she pointed out the danger which he had incurred by his discourtesy and lack of charity, and the opportunity which was now afforded him to make amends. But Nabal did not respond; he apparently had not the humility to throw off his sins and restore the mental mechanism.
The record of Abigail's gentleness provides many lessons for our edification. A business situation or a family disagreement may stir up a storm of indignation which, if not quickly countered with Christlikeness, may lead to a mental explosion and separation. One business associate, for instance, expresses discourtesy to another; the latter resents the attack; pride is wounded, anger aroused, and the clouds gather! Here Christian Science comes to the rescue and with Christlike gentleness draws the two parties together with the hands of Love.
The Bible draws attention to the divine power of Christlikeness. Gentleness, humility, consecration, and tenderness, like beams of light, pierce the clouds of fear and discord. The attributes of Love are our true riches, our real flocks and herds feeding on the good pastures, beside the still waters. Tolerance, firmness, and gentleness on the part of one business associate to another, the forbearance shown by a husband to a wife or a friend to a friend, will break up the dark clouds of anger and passion and restore the mental mechanism.
The Psalmist sang (Ps. 55:14), "We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company." The sweet counsel of Truth is always speaking to the human consciousness, informing us of man's perfection as the child of God, and reminding us of the bonds of fellowship and love which unite God's children. When we are attentive and responsive to the Christ, the storms of anger subside, and Love is triumphant.
Robert Ellis Key