Hey Siri, what’s the weather going to be like today? Thank you Siri.
Anyone else start their day doing something like this? It is a trend.
With the advent and extensive use of Siri and Alexa—Apple and Android virtual assistant personalities— we are seeing more and more human qualities in nonhuman things, and we are falling in love with them.
Violet and A.J. often ask questions of Julie and I—like what is the state dinosaur for Ohio—and when we don’t know the answer, they say, “Can you ask Siri?” (By the way, it’s the Trilobite—which if you ask me is a rather disappointing choice, and certainly why no Ohio sports team has adopted it as a mascot. But I digress.)
So sure, we can talk to and have our questions answered and needs met by Siri and Alexa, however, there are some consequences. For instance, these devices are leading some children to see a wide range of objects as living things. One app developer reports that because of Alexa, his toddler now talks to beverage coasters.
Add to that concern, research is showing that people who feel isolated are more likely to attribute consciousness to their gadgets. Meaning, loneliness is causing us to have relationships with our things.
At times, these attachments become bizarre. National Geographic reports a man in Washington State has an emotional and romantic attraction to his car, named Vanilla. And in Germany, there is a person who appears to be in a loving relationship with the Berlin Wall.
Bottom line… there is a danger in seeing objects as humans. After all, we don’t want our children to become adults who talk to coasters and fall in love with cars.
But there is an even bigger danger than seeing objects as humans. And that is… seeing humans as objects—objects that satisfy our personal desires and agendas.
Both concerns are at stake in our text for today.
King David saw Bathsheba as an object of desire. He didn’t perceive her as a human being, but as a thing that could respond to him and give him pleasure.
She was to him, Siri or Alexa.
David’s problems began in the spring when “kings go out to battle.” Instead of doing his job and leading his soldiers, David remains in the comfort and safety of the capital city of Jerusalem. He sends his captain Joab, instead, to lead his army against the Ammonites.
Late one afternoon, David lazily gets up from a nap and takes a walk on the roof of his house. From there he sees a beautiful woman taking a bath. He likes what he sees, so he sends a messenger to find out more about her.
Soon enough, he receives a report: “This is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (v. 3).
Bathsheba is a flesh-and-blood human being, daughter of Eliam, one of David’s “mighty men.” (23:34)
She is also the wife of Uriah, a brave and loyal soldier of David.
So the report is clear—Bathsheba is off limits. She is the daughter of one of David’s biggest supporters, and is lawfully married to one of his soldiers.
But none of this matters to David because he wants what he wants and doesn’t see any of these people as human beings, deserving of consideration and kindness, compassion and respect. To him, they are objects for him to use.
Like I said, before there was Siri and Alexa, there was Bathsheba and Uriah.
So David sends messengers to fetch Bathsheba, and he goes to bed with her. She returns home but soon after sends David the message: “I am pregnant.” (v. 5)
Although she had been treated like an object, Bathsheba is clearly a human being—one who can play a part in the miracle of conception and birth. She is not a gadget who can be turned off when you are finished having fun. No, she has a life, and now she is carrying new life within her.
But King David still fails to open his eyes to this truth. Instead, he continues to treat people like objects, saying to his captain, Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” (v. 6)
When Uriah arrives, David asks Uriah about how Joab and his soldiers are doing, and how the war is going. Then he gets to his agenda, and tells Uriah to go down to his house and “wash your feet”, with Bathsheba. (Usually “feet” in the Old Testament is not referring to feet.) David wants Uriah to cover his tracks.
But Uriah, like Bathsheba, is a human being, not a talking virtual assistant. He is going to follow his conscience, not the commands of the king. So instead of going home, he sleeps at the entrance of the king’s house with all the other servants.
Uriah is saying, “No way will I do such a thing—not when others can’t.” (v. 11)
David tries this move again, this time getting Uriah drunk, all in an effort to get his libido fired up so Uriah would cover up David’s wrong doing. But again it doesn’t work.
Uriah the Hittite turns out to be more honorable than David, king of the Israelites.
But whatever. Once again David is unmoved. And with a heart as cold as ice, he writes a letter to Joab and forces honorable Uriah to carry it to the battlefield where Joab reads, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” (v. 15)
Joab follows David’s orders, and Uriah is killed on the battlefield— tossed away like an inconvenient object.
David’s treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah is a warning to us. It illustrates the deadly danger of seeing humans as objects— objects that satisfy our personal desires and agendas.
Instead of respecting Bathsheba as a woman and a wife, David sees her as an attractive thing, designed to give him pleasure.
Instead of honoring Uriah as a soldier and a husband, David disposes of him as though he were an annoying, throwaway object.
This story packs an emotional punch as it shows the great harm done when we treat people as objects and not as human beings.
Over the past year, we have seen numerous people accused of sexual misconduct— Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Louis C.K., Brett Ratner, Bill O’Reilly, Kevin Spacey, and others— making it clear that King David is not alone in this particular sin.
All have treated women and men as though they were objects designed to give them pleasure.
But it’s not just kings and celebrities who treat people like objects. Each of us, in our own way, can put our own desires ahead of another person’s welfare, or treat someone as a stepping-stone as we pursue our own agendas.
Maybe we befriend a fellow student because they can help us pass a test. Maybe we hire an immigrant day laborer so we can pay them a cheaper hourly rate. Maybe we date a wealthy person so they will buy us expensive gifts. Maybe we keep our employees at a part-time level so we don’t have to pay for health insurance. Or maybe we treat the restaurant server in ways we wouldn’t treat our family or friends.
Treating people like objects is not limited to the world of sexual misconduct. It can happen anywhere, anytime, and in a lot of different ways. And it does.
Fortunately, a simple formula exists to keep us on the right track. It’s a formula put into words by Spencer Kimball, but it was first modeled by Jesus himself, and has stood the test of time, Kings, prophets, dictators, and governments.
And that formula is: Love people, not things. Use things, not people.
How differently the story of King David would have turned out if he had really loved Bathsheba and Uriah, treating them as the valuable people they were. Instead, he treated them like objects— things designed to satisfy his desires and advance his agenda.
How different the story of the world would be if we really loved others as Christ loves us.
We might think it strange to attribute human qualities to nonhuman objects.
Hey Siri, what should I get my wife for her birthday?
Perhaps I’d be better off asking her mother.
But though we think it is strange to attribute human qualities to nonhuman objects, we will often accept the opposite, that humans are seen, and used, as objects.
But how did that work out for King David? Read more of II Samuel and you’ll see—but spoiler alert—it doesn’t go well.
Which is why it is an imperative that we Love people, not things. Use things, not people.
It is an imperative to see everyone as a precious child of God, made in the image of God, to see them as daughters, wives, sons, husbands, mothers, fathers, loyal workers, children of God. Love them as Christ loves them, remembering the commandment of Jesus to love one another. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
So may we truly seek to Love people, not things, and use things, not people.
May we use Alexa and Siri to tell us the weather, but may we love the people we are with whatever the weather.
May we use our places of employment or the places we shop to help us meet our needs, but may we love the people who are there to work with us and for us.
And may we use the lessons from King David and Jesus to inspire us to love others as God first loves us. Amen.