1 Kings 5:6
“So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.”
Around 15 years ago, my homechurch staged a big musical production for Holy Week. I think it was a fund raiser of some sort because I remember us selling tickets. My assignment was more on the musical side, while a committee was formed to attend to logistics, resource and all. But of course we have to help each other whenever and wherever needed. I volunteered to tap in friends to do our backdrop. My mindset then was to cut some costs. Somehow I managed to get the commitments of three excellent artists, who were also my good friends. They did so well, it was very much commended, and I was even proud to have their services for free, along with my other guest singers. Looking back I think I was unfair, not to mention, I believe I dishonored God by my cheap offering. I may not afford them before the production, but I could have at least pushed for a budget allotment to bless them with a share of the returns.
It was God orchestrated that at the planning stage of the temple project, Hiram, king of Tyre, sent an envoy to congratulate the newly enthroned Solomon. I’m sure it’s the same feeling when we’re working on something so big and every circumstance are taken in connection to it. “An answered prayer! Just what we need!” - could be Solomon’s blurted excitement. He immediately sent back a message and invited Hiram to the project as a major supplier. The cedars of Lebanon are unparalleled and the Sidonians are exemplary in felling timbre - - just perfect and befitting for God’s glorious temple. Since it was his initiative for partnership, Solomon saw the need to assure him that the men will be given wages in acknowledgement for their skill, and Hiram can set the price. In the previous chapter we read about other countries bringing tribute to Israel, I wonder why not here? Hiram was on friendly terms with his father David, why not tickle on that relationship? I guess the answer lies on the literal foundation of this project. It was exactly that place where Araunah offered his threshing floor for David’s free use, and the king declined. Solomon knows the story. It was the place where justice and grace met, and the temple he’s building will likewise operate exactly on those truths. It couldn’t be cheap. It had to be costly.
I think it’s already part of the Pinoy culture to count on built-relationships to acquire favors. We call it pakikisama, the mother of utang na loob. I don’t want to be legalistic about it, but in reference to our context today, I think it’s dishonoring to God to abuse it in service-oriented matters. ‘By the sweat of our brow, you will eat your food’. It’s how many of us make our living. It’s an awkward position especially for ministries and Christian workers because of the argument of the free gospel. But could we at least factor in their transpo expense or food allowance or further studies? And who says the gospel is free? Didn’t Jesus pay a high price for our salvation? It’s never cheap because it was His life for ours. It was the right computation. So how do we see our friend’s labor of love? If we factor in their time, their sacrifices, their expertise - - isn’t it worth more than a tap on the shoulder? Be God’s rewarder to their hardwork. Pray and trust God for His provision!