When they conveyed the king’s order to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. (Esther 1:12)
Relate: An offer was on the table. Actually, it was the combination of two offers. Bill’s father had owned a small seafood restaurant on the Louisiana coast. It had been his dad’s pride and joy and had been a staple of the tiny community for longer than Bill had been alive. These past few years, however, things had taken a turn for the worse. His dad had finally fallen to a long running war against cancer and the extended illness meant the place hadn’t received the attention it needed and it would be very costly to get the building up to code. Although Bill had graduated from restaurant management, he had lived in the northeast and had never planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family business.
As much as a decade back, a wealthy businessman from Chicago had offered to purchase the seafront property. He visited the restaurant, loved the view, and wanted to raze the building and turn the property into a winter vacation home. Bill’s dad had turned down multiple steadily increasing offers to buy the land. He had wanted to keep this pillar in the community, for the community. This latest offer was now being presented to Bill, who had inherited the restaurant. The other offer was use the capital from the sale and franchise a couple Burger Kings near Philadelphia where he had graduated college and where his wife’s family lived. This opportunity was far more lucrative and stable and would be far less work and effort than trying to revitalize his dad’s restaurant.
After praying it over and talking it through with his wife and pastor, Bill decided to take the hard road. He felt it would be right to honor his father’s wish and come home to take over and rebuild the business. He remembered all the people who regularly came there, the local fishermen who sold their goods there, and those who were employed at the restaurant. The community was struggling to stay alive already and one more business pulling out just might be too much. He declined the sale offer, got a loan from the local bank, and set to work. it was the right choice and he was glad he made it. It was good to come back home.
Then disaster struck. Three months after he took out the loan, Deepwater Horizon had their accident and BP oil started gushing into this part of the Golf of Mexico. The fishermen took their settlement and moved on to cleaner waters. It was too much and the town virtually ceased to exist. Three years later Bill was bankrupt and the front door to that little restaurant was shut for the last time. Now he is managing a Long John Silvers wondering how such a disastrous consequence could have come from doing the right thing.
React: Sometimes nice guys really do finish last. Sometimes bad things really can come from making the right choice. Does that mean it wasn’t actually the right choice?
There are two different opinions on Queen Vashti. The traditional Hebrew understanding of the woman is that she was “evil and proud”. Sorry if I think the patriarchal view of her found in the Midrash is just a wee bit misogynistic. I am not of the opinion that she was getting the just rewards for disobeying her husband. I lean more towards the modern feminist version of the queen. Her husband viewed her as a trophy wife to be shown off during one of his drunken revelries. She said, “I will not be objectified” and refused. As a result this once most powerful woman in the world of her time fades from view and into obscurity. Is that the price of integrity?
It is a sad fact in this fallen world that the deck is quite often stacked to favor the ambitious and unscrupulous. Have there been times in our lives when doing the right thing has cost us far more than we could have wished for? Have there been times when we chose not to do the right thing so that we could make a little extra money or get a bit further ahead? What price tag do I place on my integrity?
Help me to realign my values. Help me to adjust my understanding of what success is. Even if honesty requires me to fall from king-of-the-hill to bottom-of-the-well, give me the courage to speak the truth. Even if maintaining my integrity means losing everything else I have, let me hold on. How often I forget that nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth trading away heaven. Don’t let me sell my soul even if it means gaining the whole world. You are more than enough.