Commentary for Sabbath School Lesson dated November 13, 2010
“In SPY: The Inside Story of How the FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America, author David Wise tells of his exclusive meetings with Dr. David Charney, the psychiatrist who evaluated Hanssen.
“During his years of spying, Hanssen received $1.4 million from the Russians. Of the possible motives for betraying his country, Hanssen pointed to "financial pressure." According to Charney, Hanssen wanted money for one reason: to assure his wife that he was not a failure.
“Dr. Charney commented: 'Bonnie [Hanssen's wife] was the one person who brought life into his life.
She was the last person he would want to think he was a failure. He reached to prove to her he was a good provider and good husband. So that when she would express wishes for various things, he would always buy them for her.
“'He felt it was necessary to sustain his image in her eyes as successful.
“'That put him into a financial corner, because he agreed to take on various financial burdens, by buying a house out of his reach financially, in Scarsdale. It's not that it's wrong to say that he did it for the money; you have to go deeper and ask why he wanted the money. Why did Bob Hanssen get into a corner financially? Because he had to keep up his reputation with his wife. Because that was the one person in the world whose opinion mattered.'
“Ironically, Bonnie was not the sort to place burdensome financial demands on her husband. According to Charney, Hanssen did not blame her; he blamed himself.”1
What makes someone change sides? Did Robert Hanssen believe he was doing the right thing that just happened to pay him very, very well? Or did he realize he was doing something terrible, but was able to rationalize what he was doing to make it seem right? Is there ever a good reason for betrayal? Is it still betrayal if you really believe what you're doing is the right thing to do?
Abiathar and King David had something important in common with one another: they both managed to survive their association with Saul and his emotional instability. Abiathar was the only survivor when Saul ordered all of the priests who supported David to be killed. David survived years of Saul trying to kill him. Each of them could probably relate quite well to the other's experience. And knowing that Abiathar had almost been assassinated because of integrity in the face of death, David probably felt secure in his continued loyal service. Abiathar did serve God and David extremely well for years...but then, something changed.
“Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, 'I will be king.' So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. … Adonijah conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they gave him their support.” 1 Kings 1:5,7
Why? After all the years, why did Abiathar change his allegiance from David to David's son, Adonijah? After all the years of hearing and recognizing God's voice, why did Abiathar suddenly do something so out of character? Did he really believe God was with Adonijah? Or did he just think God should have been? Or, had he been David's faithful side-kick for so long, that he thought he deserved some recognition finally?
Tragically, Abiathar chose poorly. Adonijah's bid for the throne collapsed and Abiathar was removed from the priesthood (he should have been put to death for treason).
What do you think had to be going on in Abiathar's mind that could make betraying David ok? Did Adonijah offer him some kind of payment or position in his court if he became king? Or did he figure that Adonijah was going to be successful so being on the winning side was the most important thing? We don't know, but maybe Adonijah threatened him, saying that if he didn't go with him, he'd kill him.
What about you and me, what would cause us to change sides? Don't answer too quickly. Remember that everyone of the disciples swore they would follow Jesus no matter where He led, ended up running away or actively betraying Him.
Is our loyalty for sale -- if Satan offered a seemingly better deal? Is comfort and success in the present worth more than eternal life with Jesus? Satan can make his offer look pretty sweet...what is salvation and living with Jesus worth to you?
Well, what was your salvation worth to Jesus?
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:1-3 (emphasis mine)
“For the joy set before Him”, Jesus gave up everything. We are the joy that was set before Him...He gave up everything so that we could be with Him for eternity. What are we willing to give up to be with Him? Can we look past the luxuries and comforts of everyday life to the day when we will see Jesus face to face? Or is there something today that seems more important right now?
Are we willing to set aside what we think is important today for an eternity with Jesus? Are we willing to say, like the song “I've Fixed My Mind On Another Time” by David Huntsinger: “Even so Lord come quickly, this is my fervent prayer. For I've caught a glimpse of glory and I'm longing to be there.”
Are you longing to be there?
1David Wise, SPY : The Inside Story of How The FBI's Robert Hanssen Betrayed America (Random House, 2002)