The story of the 3 mighty men tells like some kind of regimental reunion after-dinner story. Great soldiers of the past recounting their exploits, saying 'remember the one about ...'. As with such stories we can't place it exactly historically. We know that the Philistines raided territory, and here they seem to have captured David's home town of Bethlehem - giving him reason to pine for its special places like 'the well near the gate'. We have to wonder if his request was serious, but for whatever reason the warriors took it seriously. In an SAS style operation they retrieved water from behind enemy lines. Of course in pure military terms it was utterly foolish - an unnecessary risk.
So David would not drink the water, and instead poured it out on the ground! Was he being ungrateful? Not really - he turned it into a 'drink offering'. We must remember that drink offerings were normal for David and that culture (as well as surrounding peoples). See in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus etc. for how the drink offering would accompany the grain offering and the animal sacrifice (i.e. making it a full meal!). Pouring it out was putting it beyond human use, giving it over to God, a sign of devotion to God. Remember Paul picks up the same concept about himself, saying 'my life is poured out like a drink offering' (see Philippians 2:17).
David was therefore saying 'You risked your lives for me - I can't benefit from it. Instead I'm giving this over to God'. So David honoured their achievement before God.
This shows us something of David's character. David didn't use people. He didn't take credit or benefit from others as if they didn't matter. Instead he honoured their actions before God. He respected their dignity as people made in God's image, people gifted/anointed/blessed by God. We see here David doing that with his warriors, elsewhere we see him doing that even with people who had become his enemies! In fact sometimes his actions towards his enemies were bemusing to those around him because he afforded them such incredible respect.
So let us blokes learn from David. He wasn't perfect, but he does give positive example for us. Putting it into practice:
First honour your wife and family - do not take them for granted. Recognise the sacrifices they make for you, and be sure to communicate that recognition to them. Your wife and children are the pinnacle of good gifts God has blessed you with, so honour them before God.
Second recognise people around you, and the contribution they make to you and your work. Learn to see people as gift - the people around you as co-workers, on your project, or just in your life generally, are gifts from God to enrich your life and work.
Third see the value your leadership can have. See that your stepping up to lead, your taking initiative can serve others by enabling them to get on and honour God themselves in their tasks/service/action. This is leadership that is empowering (not lording). Setting a plan or structure that enables others to work fruitfully is in fact a spiritual exercise.
Of course these points, especially the third, just as equally apply to women!
The problem of this for us blokes is that it requires those 'soft skills of communication', which often many blokes find hard! So for blokes these are in fact 'hard skills'. Therefore we need to rise to the challenge, to be different, to be the people who speak out affirmation of others. Be the Man who expresses something of the goodness that God has put in others. Note that if we don't, we risk taking people for granted, which in turn risks simply just using people.
The bottom line about David, apart from a couple of documented errors of judgement, is that he recognised the dignity of the other person before God. He would actively recognise the anointed God has placed on that person. Sometimes he would do or say surprising things in affirming that person's God given dignity.
For blokes living in the 21st century here in the West, we need to step up and be the people who stick our neck out to affirm dignity in others. We need to learn to express that, even if we find that difficult. Lets start with our wives and children, but then branch out to others - honouring their service to God. Above all let us be an honouring people - recognising the living sacrifices in others, recognising them for it, and so encouraging them to go on living their lives for God.