Solomon showed his amazing wisdom in helping distinguish between the mother of a dead child and the mother of a living child. It is actually an interesting account with ramifications to evangelism:
“And the king said, ‘The one says, “This is my son, who lives, and your son is the dead one”; and the other says, “No! But your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.”’” Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to one, and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was living spoke to the king, for she yearned with compassion for her son; and she said, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!” But the other said, “Let him be neither mine nor yours, but divide him.” So the king answered and said, “Give the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him; she is his mother.” (1 Kings 3:23-27)
Here, the mother that bore the child had compassion for her child. The mother who did not bear the child had no concern for the life and development of the living child.
These two mothers are actually examples of two types of Christian leaders. There are leaders who have enough love to lead people to Christ. To become their “father” as it were. Paul said the same in 1 Corinthians 4:
“For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor 4:15)
And yet already in the days of Paul, certain leaders, who had not “begotten them through the gospel” came in by stealth. They sought to rob these newly born Christians—and to take away from them any gratitude they had toward the person who had “begotten them through the gospel.”
Solomon needed to ask a question to distinguish between the true mother and the false mother. Likewise, Paul set up a dichotomy in 1 Corinthians 4: the true father and the instructor; the evangelist through whom they came to Christ and someone else.
Notice then how he came back to this same idea in 1 Corinthians 9:
“If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:12)
Just like the true mother in Solomon’s wise counsel, Paul did not want to take advantage of his “right in the gospel.” His concern was for the unhindered spiritual growth of the newly converted Corinthian believers.
However, the other teachers, “ten thousand instructors,” had little care for the spiritual welfare of those led to Christ by Paul. Their primary care was for themselves. In this way, this second group of teachers is more like the heartless harlot who wanted the living child to be cut in half.
Is a heart for evangelism important for the Christian leader? Yes, it is! It is urgently necessary. For, a lack of evangelistic fervor may lead a Christian leader to become like the heartless harlot—fleecing the sheep led to Christ by someone else. Meanwhile, sometimes, the true evangelist must needs be willing to step aside in follow-up, agreeing with the harlot of the living son, “O my lord, give her the living child, and by no means kill him!”