A Meditation for 6 March 2016, the 4th in Lent (Year C). The meditation is based on Joshua 5: 9 – 12, 2 Corinthians 5: 16 – 21, and Luke 15: 1 – 3, 11 – 32
I know how some people will read the Old Testament reading for today. Throughout the Exodus, God provided the people with the basic nutrition in the form of manna that they would need to survive. And now, having arrived in the Promised Land, the manna has stopped and the people must live on the food that was produced in Canaan. I am sure that some people will see this as a sign that government has no business helping people and that the people themselves must provide the food.
Okay, I will buy that argument but only if you remember that it is all the people who are involved in the production of the food and all of the people share in the bounty. And remember the statements elsewhere in the Old Testament that widows, the elderly, and orphans are to be cared for by society as a whole. Jesus will refer to that policy later on. And yes, Paul and Luke (in Acts) both pointed out that those who refuse to participate may be left out.
So, let’s break this down. Those who refuse to work (key word being refuse, not unable) will not get anything. If there are no jobs, then society has a problem. And society has a problem if it refuses to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves.
We cannot arbitrarily decide who is in our community, especially when we all share the same resources of air, water, and food. Paul continues this thought about the nature of society by noting that it isn’t what we see when we look at someone that counts, it is what is inside the person.
Somehow I think we are missing this point. There was a time when we were moving towards a society where everyone was equal, where as Martin Luther King said, one is judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. And yet it seems today that not only do we judge people by the color of the skin, we judge them by their sexuality, their economic status, and perhaps even the basis for their faith.
And the worst part is that you cannot look at someone and know what their sexuality is, what their economic status might be, or even what they may believe.
It comes down to this, at least in my own mind. It is one thing to have a good life that you have achieved on your own and without any help from anyone; that is the best possible outcome in today’s world. But there is something wrong with a system that allows a few to gather all they can at the expense of all the others and then work to keep for themselves and never let others even have a chance.
It seems to me that today many people are angry with the system in which we live. And their anger is directed towards those who, they feel, are the cause of the problems. But who benefits from all of this?
We are told that businesses cannot sustain a living wage, yet in places where there are living wages, businesses thrive. Why do the rich want to keep workers at the minimum wage? Why do businesses send jobs overseas? Could it be that they don’t want to pay the workers and would rather keep the money for themselves?
And these same people push their followers to rail against the welfare system. Let’s face it, nobody should be on welfare, at least as it is today. In terms of what one receives while on welfare today, you cannot survive. And if you are trying to support a family, it is even worse. And if you can find evidence that those on welfare have it better than you, please provide the evidence because, as far as I know, it doesn’t exist except in the clouded, deluded minds of opponents.
And while you are railing against the expense and fraud of the welfare system and calling it a waste of taxpayer money, where is your anger against the military-industrial complex that drives the budget of the Pentagon and Homeland Security Agency? If there is fraud on a massive scale in the various social agencies, then there must be extremely massive fraud in the Pentagon and Homeland Security. But no one says anything about those expenditures.
Casey Stengel once said that the secret of good managing was to keep the players who haven’t decided if you were a good manager away from those who were sure you were a bad manager. It strikes me that those in positions of power would very much want those who do the work to fight amongst each other in order to keep the pressure off them.
If those without have to fight amongst themselves for the few crumbs that fall from the master’s table, we will never have a free and equal society.
In a speech to the Cleveland City Club on April 5, 1968 (the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated), Robert Kennedy said,
When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies – to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.
Senator Kennedy also noted that the lives of all those who live and share this planet are too short for the type of spirit which lead to the assassination of Dr. King to continue.
If our rage against the system is a rage against others, we will never change the system. If our anger is directed towards our brothers and sisters, how can we ever expect to change the system?
Did the older son in today’s Gospel reading rejoice when his younger brother came home? Or was he angry that his younger brother, having wasted his share of the family fortune, was now coming home to take his share as well?
Did not Jacob fear the reunion with his brother Esau? But did not Esau, for all the troubles that Jacob had caused, rejoice in the reunion of the family?
How did Joseph react when his brothers came to Egypt? Joseph could have easily had them all thrown into jail for what they had done to him (and I am sure that the laws of that time would have allowed such an action).
Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.
Personally, I think that we need to rage against the system, the system that says it is alright to hate someone because of the color of their skin or their sexuality or their economic status. We should rage against a system that turns brother against brother and country against country, solely for the dominance of the world.
We should be working for a system where everyone shares, where everyone shares in the produce of the world and no one has to suffer. We have been shown a way to achieve this and we have the ability and the skills to achieve it today.
We have a choice. We can continue on the path that we are walking, allowing the system in which we live to consume and destroy us. Or we can repent of our ways and our past and walk a new path, one in which we work to ensure that all who live on this planet share of God’s resources.