I was curious about the Bible as a child, but one of its first stories that made me uneasy was the dispute involving two women and maternal rights to a living child. Solomon resolves this problem by offering to cut the child up so both women could have equal parts. Of course, we know how the story ends. As a youth, I couldn’t believe that some woman would be willing to see a child chopped to pieces just for simple mathematical justice. As I grew older, I maintained my incredulous posture towards this event because it just seemed so far-fetched for anyone to have such a mixture of foolishness and evil.

After years of spending time around adults who were caught up in the throes of intense grief over loss, witnessing jealousy from those who have lost someone or something dear, I believe this story makes perfect sense. A woman has just accidentally killed her own child. Stricken with grief and jealousy over the woman whose child still lives, she snatches the baby not out of love, but out of desire gone awry. In her jealousy, it is not surprising to believe that she would care little for this woman’s baby. In her mind, she might even think, “If I have been robbed of a child, why should anyone have a baby?” Grief over loss, when mixed with inordinate desires, results in a dangerous combination. Thankfully Solomon’s wisdom wins the day.

For me, there is a sober realization that some of our best instincts, like motherly instincts, can be harmful to us and those around us if unchecked by allegiance to God. When God is not our priority, even our sense of right and wrong can easily go out the window.