Money and power draw a lot of attention.
Much of our world revolves around money and power.
The president of the United States deals with money and power on a worldwide scale.
Each of us deals with money and power on a different scale. No matter the size of our money and power, we each have control over some small kingdom. As to scale, your sphere of influence may not extend beyond the boundaries of your living room or the TV remote, nevertheless the exercise of power is involved.
We are all accountable for how we use our money and power. Jesus states a principle that we all need to remember. He said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Matthew 12:48)[i]
Today, we are going to look at Haman. Haman is going to represent the abuse of money and power. He was entrusted with much, but he did not use it well. He is the villain in the story of Esther, and as such, ends up being hung on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
From Haman’s life, we will learn some lessons, and then we will apply those lessons to our world and to our lives today. Our expectation is that we do not want to be like Haman. So, in the process of learning, we can also expect to see areas in our own lives where we need to make changes.
We meet Haman in the third chapter of the book of Esther. Esther 3:1 says, “Sometime later King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite over all the other nobles, making him the most powerful official in the empire.”
At our first meeting, Haman is promoted without reason to the highest position in the land.
Lesson number 1: Life is not fair.
Esther chapter 2 ends with Mordecai saving the king’s life, and he was not rewarded for it. Esther chapter 3 starts with Haman’s promotion without reason.
Life works like this. You may have thought because you worked hard and your ideas brought success that you would get the promotion at work, but it never materialized. You may be more qualified than the schmuck that got the job, but they chose the schmuck. It happens all the time. This gives us the opportunity to become bitter, jealous and/or envious. The antidote or opposite of this is to trust God.
James 4:1-3 says:
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.
In the court of the king, this is how things operated. Money and power give opportunity for our evil desires, and we fight and scratch to get what others have. It is not obvious in the story of Haman, but we see it in the way Haman plays the game.
Mordecai can serve as our example. We must humble ourselves before God and let Him raise us up in His time. James 4:10 offers this conclusion:
“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.”
Life may not be fair, but God is in control. The question each of us must answer is, “What have I done with what God has entrusted to me?”
Haman was entrusted with the operation of an Empire. What did he do with it?
Esther 3:2-6 gives us a feel for how Haman used what was entrusted to him. It says:
All the king’s officials would bow down before Haman to show him respect whenever he passed by, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai refused to bow down or show him respect.
Then the palace officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?” They spoke to him day after day, but still he refused to comply with the order. So they spoke to Haman about this to see if he would tolerate Mordecai’s conduct, since Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.
When Haman saw that Mordecai would not bow down or show him respect, he was filled with rage. He had learned of Mordecai’s nationality, so he decided it was not enough to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Instead, he looked for a way to destroy all the Jews throughout the entire empire of Xerxes.
Mordecai was a nobody. Haman was the top man in the empire. But Haman was filled with rage because Mordecai would not bow. Haman was concerned with Haman. He was taking care of number one.
Yet, something even more insidious and evil is at work.
Mordecai’s reason for not bowing is contained in this account. The palace officials asked Mordecai, “Why are you disobeying the king’s command?” Mordecai’s answer is indicated in verse 4 where it says, “Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.”
I have a Jewish friend who loves bacon. I tease him. “You are a Jew and yet you eat bacon!” He responds, “Yeshua has set me free from the Law.”
I imagine a Jew might explain not eating pork by saying, “I am a Jew.”
“Why don’t you eat pork?”
“I am a Jew.”
“Mordecai, why don’t you bow down?”
“I am a Jew.”
The second commandment says:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. (Exodus 20:4-5, KJV)
“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”
The king was considered deity, and apparently, Haman was elevated to some sort of divine status by the king’s order. Mordecai’s refusal to bow was a matter of religious conviction. Therefore, when Haman brought the issue to the king he said, “There is a certain race of people scattered through all the provinces of your empire who keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their laws are different from those of any other people, and they refuse to obey the laws of the king.” (Esther 3:8) The refusal to bow before any other god is just one such law that Haman is referring to.
Haman’s pride is injured, and he has found grounds for eliminating the Jews, but I have not yet explained the full extent of the insidious evil that is at work.
Let’s go back to verse 1 of Esther chapter 3 where it says, “King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite.”
One might just read over this without a thought, but it is very significant.
Let me give you some background.
When the Jews left Egypt under the leadership of Moses and after they had crossed the Red Sea, the Israelites (Jews) were attacked by the descendants of Amalek.
Amalek was the son of Eliphaz, who was the firstborn son of Esau, the brother of Jacob who was the father of the Jews. They were of the same family and descendants of Abraham and Isaac. However, because of their attack on the Israelites, God cursed the Amalekites and said, “I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14)
When God had established the nation of Israel and their first king, Saul was on the throne. God gave instructions to Saul that He should attack and wipe out the Amalekites, leaving nothing alive, not even any animals.
Saul carried out these orders with a couple exceptions. 1 Samuel 15:9 says:
Saul and his men spared Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.
Agag was the king of the Amalekites, and Haman was his descendant.
Somewhere close to six hundred years had passed since the slaughter of the Amalekites by Saul, but apparently it was not forgotten. Haman probably grew up hating the Jews.
This is not unusual.
Parents teach their prejudices to their children. I have watched Palestinian TV programs designed to teach children hatred for the Jews. The Jews of Jesus’ day taught their children to hate Samaritans.
What do we teach our children to hate?
In summary, Haman’s life was characterized by hatred, self-seeking, greed and a lust for power. Therefore, when he had power and money, he used them in the interest of these things.
The story of Esther and Mordecai shows how God worked to stop Haman.
Do you want to end up like Haman, impaled on the pole you set up for your enemy? Then just let hatred, greed and a lust for power have its way in your life.
If the antidote to jealousy is to trust God, the antidote to hate, greed and self-seeking is to love your neighbor as yourself.
The Apostle Paul said:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5, ESV)[ii]
We all know that government should operate in the interest of the governed. However, every institution quickly becomes corrupt as those in power seek their own interests. It takes constant vigilance and work to fight against and stop evil workers like Haman.
In 1 Timothy 6:5, Paul speaks of those who bring controversy and conflict into the Church because they see godliness as a means of gain. In other words, greed, hatred and self-seeking can find its way into any human relationship.
When we are given money and power, do we use it for ourselves?
Remember, your life is a stewardship entrusted to you by God.
Why has God put you where you are?
Do you trust God?
Do you love your neighbor?
If we do not want to be like Haman, I would add two more admonitions.
1. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, ESV)
2. If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:1-3, ESV)
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.