Person or Possession?

Which is the true mother?

That was the question facing King Solomon in I Kings 3:16-28,
the case that Scripture cites as the most telling test of his wisdom.
Two women, each claiming the child as her own,
waited expectantly for his judgment.

“Get me a sword…
Cut the living child in two,
and give half to one woman and half to the other.”

“Please, my lord, give her the living child–please do not kill it!”

“It shall be neither mine nor yours. Divide it!”

“Give the first one the living child! By no means kill it, for she is the mother.”

One woman saw the baby as a person; in her love for him, she could not bear to see him killed.

The other saw the child as a thing, as a possession to be used for her own benefit; she did not care whether he lived or died.

Person vs. possession. Love vs. use.
That made all the difference.

By and large, the situation is reversed now. Instead of claiming the child, people are trying to get rid of the child, especially before birth. But the underlying mentality is not so different.

If we see the baby as a person, we want what is best for the child (which is ultimately what is best for the mother, since her welfare cannot be separated from the welfare of her child) and we cannot bear to see him/her killed. We fight for his/her life.

That’s love: choosing the best good of another person, even at the cost of sacrifice to ourselves. That’s what being pro-life is all about.

If we see the baby as a thing to be possessed (just a mass of cells; a “potential person”; pick your favorite buzzword), then we step into the shoes of the second woman, for whom the life of another was optional–using today’s connotation of the term, one could fairly call her pro-choice.

There’s an old song sung by B.J Thomas that puts it in a nutshell (video, lyrics):

Using things and loving people
That’s the way it’s got to be
Using things and loving people
Look around and you can see
That loving things and using people
Only leads to misery
Using things and loving people
That’s the way it’s got to be

This is the wisdom of Solomon in a nutshell.

The fact that the two women in King Solomon’s court were prostitutes, women accustomed to being used by men, only accentuates the point.

This distinction of treating another as a person to be loved versus a possession to be used has application throughout the whole realm of social interaction, from labor relations to custody battles, in vitro fertilization, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, etc. It’s at the heart of Pope John Paul II’s clarion call to build a culture of life in which persons are always loved, never used. He spent a great deal of time sorting out its implications in his (dense but rewarding) book Love and Responsibility, and it was the foundation of nearly everything he ever said and did. He lived and proclaimed the wisdom of Solomon.

This is the searching question I try to ask myself in any given interaction:
Am I only in this for myself?
Am I treating this person as a thing to be used for my benefit?
Or do I see him/her as a person to be loved?
Am I doing what is best for him/her?

I want to live the wisdom of Solomon too.

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