why did people invent war?

by Zach Kincaid
No wonder Jesus liked children. Their naivety allows questions that carry no inhibition.

I was telling our children the story about David finding Saul in a cave and he...

“Pulls out his big sword and slices his head off...” interrupted our seven-year-old.

“No, no,” I responded. “Do you know what happens?” I asked with no response. “Most of us would take advantage of the moment especially because Saul was chasing David so he could kill him. But David doesn’t do that. He only cuts off a piece of the king’s cloak and leaves him to his dreaming.”

We talked about Samuel and God’s anointing of Saul as well as David a little bit later. I mentioned too how Saul hopelessly died in the end by falling on his sword in battle. They seemed satisfied with this demise and modeled it with their light sabers.

Then I shifted to Jesus.

“If someone knocks your eye out or breaks a few teeth, Jesus says we should let the person have our other eye and a few more teeth.”

“No way,” said Micah.

“Yes,” I said. “Just like David cutting Saul’s robe and not his head.”

“Why?” Caleb asked.

I kept the why dangling. I sang some songs and scratched their backs as is our custom to attempt to charm them to sleep. All three share the same room so the charm usually doesn’t work right away.

I started to close the door. Most nights, that’s when our five-year-old has a question.


“Yes, Caleb,” I said with a small amount of patience.

“Why did people invent war? All they do is kill each other. Is it so the bad guys don’t come to our house?”

Oh boy. This ranked with several of their other questions like, If God loves everyone - even the bad people - does that mean the bad people go to hell? and, Why did Jesus have to die?

I thought about the story of the piece of rice that fell from the Great Khan’s plate. The insect tries to carry it off. A lizard eats the insect. A mouse eats the lizard. A cat eats the mouse. A dog chases the cat. The dog owner runs after his pet. The cat owner runs into the dog owner. There’s a tizzy between the two. Then their families get involved. Soon there’s a war between both clans and no one remembers the dog and cat.

The question of inventing war sounds childish. Perhaps no one invented war; it just happens because of a grain of rice or a lot of land or pieces of silver and gold. Khan-sized egos rub against like minds, and a kingdom can’t contain them both.

Why did people invent war? Maybe it’s a default because certainly the biblical narrative suggests love runs deeper. Could the Hebrews take possession of the land without fighting. The Egypt getaway makes a place for signs that hold to the "vengeance is mine" premise. And the Nile red mimics the crumbling walls of Jericho. No one lifted a hand, like the later episode with Gideon’s jars and torches (skipping over the violent stake-in-the-eye treachery... no doubt).

Then Israel clamors for a king. And a king demands a kingdom and kingdoms need defenders and defenders need weapons and weapons need victims and victims need conquerors.

We invented war to nullify help from the divine. Sure, we want the Constantine cross to manipulate our victory and rightness as much as the Olympian gods bouncing down to defend a side in Grecian battles. But, when a deity says he owns the land no matter the kingdom that sits on its top, then what? We are not satisfied to get milk and honey alone. We want blood. For, like Cain, we crave dominance in some falsely placed sacrificial way, turning inward the letting as our own reward.

We invented war to carry our wishes outside the bounds of love. It is built off the paranoia of the other. Perhaps the other will show up at my door, so it’s better to kill him on the battlefield and stage safety in the shire. Right? And then we can beat our chests, enter caves with shadows dancing by and pretend that there are no windows in the sky.

In the end, I told our boy I didn't know... that it sounds like a bad invention... and tucked him tighter in his warm, safe bed.