He Who Sows Injustice Reaps Trouble

 

Proverbs 22:1-2, 8-9, 22-23

Psalm 125

James 2:1-10, (11-13), 14-17

Mark 7:24-37

 

A word about proverbs. Every culture has them, and they tend to be similar through the ages. They are intended to be adages to live by, helpful guides for the young and those needing guidance.

Are they true? Yes and no. Take two modern proverbs: “he who hesitates is lost,” and “look before you leap.” They seem to contradict each other, but both are true(ish). There are times when each is true, and only the wise can tell which is true in each case. That is probably why King Solomon gets credit for writing these 31 chapters.

Today’s reading picks six verses from the chapter that have a common theme. That is one of the difficulties; the proverbs seem to be willy-nilly in their listing. Yet, there are often connections that don’t leap out on the first reading.

The first two verses assure us that earning a good name—by doing what is right—is always the path to Godliness. Then, verse 3 is a caution that follows this theme, as do verses 4, 5, and 6. Verse 7 sets up our next two verses.

Being rich or borrowing money is not the issue. Whoever sows injustice, NIV is the issue. Consistently, the Bible condemns the rich who misuse their wealth. God does not condemn people for loaning money. If I am rich and I loan money to someone, I must treat it as a gift; if he can pay it back, great.

Now that I’ve made myself a rich man, should I charge interest? That becomes another case of knowing when it is right and when it is wrong. It may be necessary to charge one or two percent to encourage the borrower to pay on time. If I make it seem like free money, I may be asking for trouble.

That brings us back to justice. Remember verse 1: Rather than wealth, choose a good reputationCJB Any loan may be lost, no matter how careful the loaner is. If a person with a great reputation asks me for a loan, I am more likely to provide it interest-free. Is that justice? Sure, I’m rich; I don’t need more money. He who is generous is blessedCJB

Justice is about doing what is right for other people, especially those who have so little. Having taken ten STMT’s—short-term missionary trips—to Haiti, I have some sense of poverty in that beleaguered country. My understanding is still too limited to know the best solution, but I know I can’t just ignore their suffering.

In addition to my personal visits, I spent several years reading for a master’s degree on the topic of how best to eliminate world poverty. That was in the early seventies, and I now know most of what I read and believed was wrong.

Verses 22-23 are right. Don’t walk on the poor just because they’re poor, and don’t use your position to crush the weak, because God will come to their defense; the life you took, he’ll take from you and give back to themMSG

There are over 300 private aid organizations operating in Haiti. Few of them cooperate with one another. Too many duplicate what others are already doing. Too many spend most of their efforts on fundraising in the States without spending it on those most in need. The most effective are those who people who live and work with the poor because they know who has a need and who only pretends. Many agencies have nice offices in Port-au-Prince and rent a nice house or live in one of the American run hotels. They make quick excursions to poverty hot spots, taking their cameramen along for the publicity photos.

God will come to their defense.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Should a Christian be Pro-American?

Song of Solomon 2:8-13

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10

James 1:17-27

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

 

Ritual washing of the hands, the issue in Mark, involves pouring water over each hand at least twice and allowing the water to run off the fingers followed by the blessing for the bread. There are several other ritual washings, all done the same way, but not always with a blessing. Ritual washing today is generally done after washing normally with hand soap. The ritual has little to do with getting the hands clean.

This ritual has no Biblical basis, instead, created by rabbis a century or two before Jesus to encourage all Jews to be more involved in the Temple practice of purity. Jesus’ response to the critics was correct according to the law but violated the social norms of Judaism.

It is possible that Jesus, and almost certainly the Apostles, engaged in ritual washing throughout their lives. Here, they were out in the field with no water, so they ate their bread without washing. I imagine the four fishermen among them ‘washed’ their hands while hauling fish aboard by sticking them in the lake water before eating.

Jesus was not big on rituals. The Law, yes, but not man-made rules.

Which brings us to our roles as Christian Americans. Think about the social norms many of us follow that clash with the teachings of Jesus.

In 1954, the phrase, “under God,” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. Few Christians even think about it, but is it proper? Are we excluding non-believers? Is that the Christian way?

The man who convinced President Eisenhower to push Congress to pass the change was a Scottish minister of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C., Rev. George Docherty. The church is known as the church of Presidents since Abe Lincoln attended. (Yes, he did attend, but was not a member.)

Docherty worked tirelessly with the Civil Rights movement and later criticized the Viet Nam war. He believed in standing up for social justice. Saluting the flag had little to do with it.

What about voting and political party membership? Jesus was not a supporter of the government leaders, either Judaic or Roman, but does that mean we should not? Since the 1980’s the so-called Evangelical vote has always gone for the Republican Presidential candidates. Is that proper? That is, should I vote only based on my party preference? Should I have a party preference? (Before LBJ, that same bloc voted Democratic most of the time.)

Many Christians today are strong on the military, again, seemingly in contrast to Jesus. This is a tough one because there are enemies intent on our destruction. The problem is in the quality of support. Glorify or respect? Do we treat it as a necessary evil or do we take pleasure in killing our enemies? God loves them as much as He loves us.

God’s love is the issue. He loves every human and wants every human to love Him. He also wants us to love every human just as He does. If we love Him, we will do all we can to help our fellow humans in need. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? ESV

The righteous in this parable from Matthew are those who fed as many as they could. They did not worry about where they came from or if they were scamming the system; they offered help. True justice is about taking risks. Even a Christian soldier in battle will do what he can for those in need, enemy or not.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.