Spotting an Ahab is easy, if you know what to look for. You will find them on the street, you will find them in the workplace, and you will probably find a disproportionately large number of them in the church. The church is a sort of safe-haven for scoundrels. The outside world is largely still a meritocracy, where men are judged based on a number of criteria. Although these criteria are often not biblical, there remains a certain expectation that a man must act in certain ways and accomplish certain things to be considered respectable.
On the other hand, the church has been hearing “judge not” for so long that they have begun to lose sight of wisdom and discernment. And so the church is full of perfectly placid “good boys” and “decent guys” who share all of Ahabs’ weaknesses, if perhaps none of his malice.
First, an Ahab serves only when it is convenient or advantageous to do so. We see this in 1 Kings 20-21, when Ahab is given victory over Ben-Hadad of Syria. Ahab obeys God’s leading and God consequently gives him a great victory over the Syrians. But then at the end of the battle, Ben-Hadad is taken captive and brought before Ahab.
Ahab, though he is commanded by God to kill this wicked gentile king, instead decides to grant him clemency in exchange for some territorial and political concessions. No doubt this seemed to Ahab to be a good plan at the time, saving him a lot of effort and conquest. But it was also in direct disobedience to the Word of God.
This is what Ahabs do. They will serve in the church, as long as people notice what they are doing and it accrues to their credit. They will be honorable, so long as there is something to be gained by it. But the Ahab lacks the courage and integrity to do what is right when it will not tip the scale in his favor.
Secondly, an Ahab feeds on self-pity. We see this in 1 Kings 21, where Ahab essentially goes into severe depression and stops eating simply because he cannot get what he wants. He is self-focused, incapable of showing love to others except where it benefits himself.
Ahabs will have a lot of friends – in fact, they may be completely surrounded with people. Many of these people may even genuinely like Ahab and think that he is a “good guy.” But when you take a closer look at the dynamic of these relationships, a disturbing trend emerges. Ahab is not the energy-giver, he is the energy-taker. He wears his friends and his family out with his constant craving for self-attention and self-exaltation.
It is this very trait which will probably endear him to you. He needs you. He can’t get along without you. And there is a certain kind of person, a certain species of pride, which will thrive and feed off of the Ahab because on a fundamental level it needs to be needed. This particular kind of relationship is damaging and destructive because each species of pride and self-absorption feeds on the other.
Here’s a quick-and-dirty rule for you, Tirza, when considering a future spouse: Is he already a “whole person” without you? Before you came along, was he a healthy, energy-giving servant of the king? If the answer is “no”, then he is not the man for you. It isn’t that a good spouse shouldn’t complete you – but the man you marry needs to be the sort of man who has already grounded himself in Jesus Christ. You are not his salvation. You are not his fulfillment. Any man who is wallowing in self-pity before you come along and pick him up out of the gutter will make an idol out of you as he has himself. And what we idolize, we will eventually come to despise.