I’ve been reading a Literature textbook for the past several weeks. It’s the textbook my son will be using in 9th grade this fall, and I wanted to review it first. I probably won’t have him read everything in it. I like to tailor my kids’ reading, rather than just throwing at them everything that someone has put under the heading of “classic” or “required reading”. I try to include things I think they’ll enjoy reading, but also a few things that are, I don’t know, out of their comfort zone, I guess. I always tell them, “It’s okay with me if you decide you dislike a book, or an author, but you have to read it to decide.”
One of the things I read today was the story of King Midas. I’m sure you know it; guy loves gold more than anything and wishes he had more. One day a man comes to him and says he can grant his wish: that everything he touches from then on, will turn to gold. Midas is thrilled, until he realizes he can never eat or drink again. Worst of all, his delicate caress of his little daughter’s face turns her, too, to gold.
Punishment is a tricky thing, sometimes. When my kids were very young, I always wanted consequences for their actions to fit the crime as closely as possible. If they wouldn’t share a toy, then they lost the privilege of playing with it, with the hope that they would feel what their friend or sibling was feeling. I wanted any punishment I gave them to help them learn something.
We spent a few weeks studying King David in church recently, and one of the things the pastor talked about was David’s “punishment” for his crimes of adultery and murder in the Bathsheba chapter of his life. When the prophet Nathan presented to him the account of a man guilty of a similar crime, David proclaimed that the guilty man should restore fourfold for his offense.
The man, of course, was David himself, as Nathan then pointed out. And David’s proclaimed punishment became his own in a way, as he would lose four sons to early deaths (2 Samuel 12, 2 Samuel 13, 2 Samuel 18 and 1 Kings 2).
Judge not, we are told, lest we be judged. And, “with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” David’s punishment fit the crime. King Midas’ punishment was simply the fulfillment of his wish.
In the same way that we never know how God might answer our prayers, we never know what the consequences might be for our sins. Forgiveness is ours for the asking, but sometimes there’s no getting away from the consequences of our actions, and they might not look like we had anticipated. But in this, too, we can trust that His will is for our good.