The lesson says that it is about friendship vs. pride, but it actually boils down to a lesson about charity, the pure love of Christ, and its mortal enemy, pride. What is true friendship if not a form of pure love? We have three examples of faithfulness/faithlessness in this lesson. They come in the form of Saul, his son Jonathan, and David.
Setting the Story
Let’s review Saul’s personality thus far in the scriptures. He was a humble boy, taken by the prophet Samuel and made king of all of Israel. Within just a couple of years Saul had lost all his humility, fulfilling the prophecy Samuel gave to the people that their king would take all that was most choice from the people to use for himself. Despite the tutoring he received from the prophet, Saul was so filled with pride that when the prophet was late arriving to offer the sacrifices for war, and the people were beginning to drift away because they didn’t see any progress being made toward going to war, Saul took it upon himself to offer the sacrifices himself. Not only did he take upon himself the authority of the priesthood and offer the sacrifices, but he justified himself before the prophet for why he had done so, blaming the act as a result of Samuel’s own tardiness.
After the prophet chastised Saul for his pride, the Lord gave Saul one last chance to redeem himself. The Lord blessed them, enabling the Israelites to destroy the Amalekites. But Saul was more concerned about the opinion of the people than he was about the opinion of the Lord and allowed the people to keep the animals alive to be used for sacrifice. This was very offensive to the Lord, for the Lord had commanded that every living thing be killed. The Lord told Samuel that He had found another who had a better heart to be king over the people. That other man was David.
That brings us up to this week’s lesson. David killed Goliath, and Saul was so impressed that he brought David into his court and set David over all his armies. Saul’s son, Jonathan, and David became such fast and tight friends that Jonathan actually took off all his royal robes and gave them to David, including his own sword and shield. They felt close enough that they made a covenant between them. In today’s society it is dangerous to say that they loved each other, because that conjures visions of physical love, which is not the case here. But they did love each other enough that the scriptures say they loved each other as they loved their own soul. You don’t get any more devoted to someone than that.
The Bulk of the Story
You really need to read all the chapters of this lesson, 1 Samuel 18 – 20; 23-24. With that said, here is the condensed version of the story. Because of David’s purity and faithfulness, both to the Lord and to his king, David was blessed in battle, and never lost. When the women who sang the songs of victory made comments like “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands,” Saul, who was already full of pride, became filled with jealousy and rage. From that day forward he sought to kill David. We will talk about the effects of jealousy in a moment.
The rest of the story is all about Saul acting like a crazy person trying to kill this man who is no threat to him, but to whom Saul feels must be killed or his whole kingdom will be destroyed. Saul literally turns his kingdom upside down in his own efforts to kill David. The sad thing is that Saul offered David one of his daughters in the hopes that she would be a snare to David so Saul could kill him. Nice going pops. Way to treat your daughter. Fortunately, his daughter and David actually loved each other, and she helped David escape her father’s attempts to kill him.
To give you an example of what home life was like in Saul’s house, David escaped being pinned to a wall by a javelin three times because Saul threw them at David trying to kill him while David played the harp for the king. Saul tried to stab him in his bed, he hunted him up and down the length of the kingdom, and even threatened to destroy an entire town just to kill David because he was in that city.
Motives and Effects of Pride
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
“Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. Jesus said He did ‘always those things’ that pleased God ( John 8:29). Would we not do well to have the pleasing of God as our motive rather than to try to elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another?
“Some prideful people are not so concerned as to whether their wages meet their needs as they are that their wages are more than someone else’s. Their reward is being a cut above the rest. . . .
“When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world and deliver our freedoms to the bondage of men’s judgment. The world shouts louder than the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. The reasoning of men overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 4–5; or Ensign, May 1989, 5).
I would like to rephrase these three paragraphs.
1. The sin of pride is shown in our motives, our reasons behind why we do what we do. If what we do is to “elevate ourselves above our brother and outdo another” then we are guilty of pride. Ever know someone who makes more than you do? It doesn’t matter how much more they make, as long as they know they make more than you.
2. When life becomes nothing more than a competition, we are guilty of pride. It didn’t matter how prosperous Saul was, if David got more praise than Saul, he could not rest until his competition was dead. Think evil queen here and Snow White with the apple. The queen was so eaten by jealousy that she no longer cared that she, herself, was extremely beautiful, she had to be the most beautiful, and nothing less would appease her vanity. If that meant killing her own step-daughter, then so be it. Gee, maybe the story of Snow White was modeled off of the story of Saul and David.
3. The first sentence of this paragraph is very important. As long as we DO NOT care what the world thinks, we are free from the world. But we lose our independence and become slaves to the world when we let pride dictate to us what is most important. Pride requires of us that we have the approval of the World. The approval of the Lord is no longer the main concern. We become bound by what others think. Remember when Saul offended the Lord because he listened to the voice of the people and saved all the animals instead of slaughtering them, then tried to use those same offensive animals to sacrifice to the Lord? This is what pride does. It makes us a slave to other’s opinions. Reason “overrides the revelations of God, and the proud let go of the iron rod.”
Jonathan and David’s Charity
There appears to be so much more to talk about when it comes to Saul’s wickedness than Jonathan and David’s righteousness. The reason, I think, is because Saul was a wild card, a loose cannon, but David and Jonathan, and David’s wife, were all good friends. They were steady. They rejoiced in each other’s victories. They watched over each other, protected each other, looked out for each other’s happiness and welfare.
As much as we praise David, who became king, and is so famous, I would like to look at Jonathan instead. Jonathan was the king’s son. He was next in line to be king, yet he gave all his royal clothing to his best friend David. They were both brave in battle, yet David’s exploits were sung far and wide, and Jonathan was widely ignored. If anyone on earth had a reason to be jealous of David it would have been Jonathan, not Saul. Yet Jonathan was the first to promote David’s successes. He ran interference with his father for David, and even had to dodge a javelin meant to kill him by his own father because he had stood up for his best friend, David.
On more than one occasion David and Jonathan made or renewed covenants they had made with each other. And the covenants were not just between the two friends, but between their houses, so their future families were committed to these pacts as well. On multiple occasions Jonathan had to hide David from his father’s searches.
What About Us?
The friendship between David and Jonathan really is a touchstone, benchmark, or standard of what it means to be a friend. Jonathan was a Christ-like friend. He put his own life at risk to protect someone who was hated by the most powerful man in the kingdom. He was never jealous of David’s successes, but was genuinely happy for his friend’s prosperity. He encouraged David and strengthened him in the Lord when David was struggling with the burdens he had to bear. Jonathan can teach us all a thing or two about what it means to be a true friend. There was no envy of David’s prosperity. There was no seeking for self promotion or to pull David down because Jonathan had not received as much praise. Jonathan truly did not care about himself. His love for David overshadowed any concerns about himself. He even recognized and helped David to accept the fact that David would be the next king of Israel, not Jonathan. This was a man of the purest heart.
The lesson closes with three good questions that we should probably read and ask ourselves, then think carefully about how we would answer the questions.
1. What was the last kind thing you did for someone? (And I would add, “and what was the motive for that kind deed?”)
2. What do you do when you hear someone saying unkind things about another person?
3. What have you done to help your friends be better people?
To learn more about the prophet’s thoughts on pride, here is the link to the talk by President Benson, as read by President Hinckley in General Conference:
Beware of Pride
President Ezra Taft Benson
April Conference 1989
Click the link below to
print a PDF copy of the file.
Thee and Me Forever
OT Week 23
Outstanding commentary. Thank you.