Wealth and power are never in my prayers. I’ve always asked God for enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table just like He promised in Matthew 6:28. Money corrupts and power makes a person drunk with control. People always say, “When I win the lottery, I will_____.” It is almost always an empty promise of generosity to someone they know or love.
Frankly, I don’t want it. I never play the lottery. I’ve watched seniors gamble away their social security checks at casinos and they never won enough to improve their circumstances. When I walk through a casino, I see only poverty, heavy smokers and drinkers. I see lives controlled by the next win. When I think of money and power, I think of a story I found in the research I did for my novel.
King Henry II had a fierce temper. He was known for tearing his clothes apart and chewing the carpet (in those days carpets were made of loose straw). His eyes would go bloodshot. The person who caused his rage would find his life gone like a candle blown out by the wind. Henry II began his reign in 1154. He appointed his best friend, Thomas Becket as Chancellor of England. The two men hunted, gamed, and hawked together. Becket enjoyed excess and extravagance as friends of the King of England. In 1158, Henry II sent Becket to Paris. Becket took with him 250 servants, 8 wagons of provisions, expensive plates and 24 different outfits. He also kept a household in England of 700 knights and employed 52 clerks to manage his vast estates. Becket ate the finest foods while friends with Henry II.
Money and power do not keep a friendship strong. Becket became the top churchman in England when he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. Henry hated the Pope. He hoped by installing Becket in a position of power that it would diminish the power of the Pope. Christ changed Becket’s heart. He resigned as Chancellor and abandoned a life of ease and power. Much to Henry’s horror, Becket gave away his expensive wardrobe, fine plates, and rich furniture. He devoted the rest of his life to prayers, study and acts of charity.
Becket angered Henry when he refused to fortify his friend’s position against the Pope. Henry II swore to eliminate Becket for he was an obstruction to his agenda. Falsified charges were brought against Becket by Henry to satisfy his intense hatred. Becket appeared in court bearing a very large cross and claimed sanctuary as a churchman. He claimed the secular judges had no rights. He crossed Henry once again by asking the Pope for assistance. Becket fled England in 1164. His life was in danger and he fled to Sens, France for six years. Becket returned to Canterbury, England after the Pope and the King of France thought they had resolved the issues between Henry and Becket.
But Henry II hated his former friend so intensely that it was all he spoke about in court. The hatred burned hotter when Becket excommunicated the Archbishop of York and six other bishops that were involved in the crowning of Henry’s eldest son. Four loyal knights of Henry sought to please their overlord by journeying to Canterbury, England to take care of Becket. A young monk named Edward Grim observed the knights invading the cathedral.
“You shall die!” the knights threatened Becket.
“I am ready to die for my Lord that in my blood the Church may obtain liberty and peace.” Becket said as the knights attempted to drag him outside of the sanctuary. Becket struggled and remained praying at the altar.
“Touch me not, Reginald.” Becket shrugged off that knight. “You owe me fealty and subjection! You and your accomplices act like madmen!”
The knight, Reginald, passed his sword in a rage over Becket’s head. “No faith nor subjection do I owe you against my fealty to my lord the king.”
Becket lowered his head and put his hands together as if to pray. He lifted his hands and commended his cause and that of the Church to God as Reginald struck him on the head with his sword cutting off the top of his head in a single swipe. Becket remained alive and praying. The second blow jostled him, but he remained standing. The third blow knocked him to his knees.
“For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.” Becket muttered.
The third knight thrust his sword into Becket as Becket lay on the floor. The sword broke against the stones. This knight continued to pummel Becket with his sword until nothing remained of his head. The four knights left the cathedral and expected their efforts to reap a reward. Christian Europe went into a rage at Becket’s brutal killing. Henry disgraced the knights and the knights spent their remaining lives in the Holy Land. Henry ran away to Ireland. His grief was very great.
Henry returned to rule as a King, but not before 80 monks beat him with branches after he walked barefoot through the streets of Canterbury dressed in nothing more than a sackcloth. He spent the night freezing in the crypt where Becket’s body rested. The church waived protection from his lands in France making it open to invasion. Henry continued assaulting people with his rages and never learned to think before he spoke. He died in 1189 a broken and angry man.
Becket gave up the world. He turned from a sinful path to a path of serving Jesus. He died for his faith. This story struck me. It takes courage to give up that kind of wealth and power. Becket valued a relationship with Christ over a relationship with a king.
I don’t play the lottery. I don’t gamble. The only risks I take are the decisions I make daily. I would rather risk failure in life than to risk failure at the slots. For one outweighs the other in the wealth of experiences and wisdom. I take risks. It’s who I am. Because I can’t stand to sit and dream without first attempting to make that dream a reality. Maybe that’s why rejection letters and writing do not scare me. It takes courage to put your heart online or on paper. It takes courage to love in the face of hate. It is not courage without fear, but courage in spite of fear.
What keeps you from risking success? Why do you think your dreams are not attainable? Why not keep trying? What can you learn from Thomas Becket’s story?
Source: Dark History of the Kings and Queens of England By Brenda Ralph Lewis