July 13, 2020by Reverend Dan on July 13, 2020
“So, I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the orphans, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.”
I was reading about biblical archaeology recently (I know . . . GEEK!). These archeologists are the ones who dig around looking for artifacts that can help tell what civilization was like during biblical times. They’ve found over time that when they dug down into the ruins of ancient Israel, and you aligned what was found with the time period in the bible, an interesting thing revealed itself.
There were periods when the houses in a town or city were more or less the same size and had pretty much the same contents. This reflected that during these times here was relative equality among the people. And when they lined that period up to the Biblical era in which it existed, the Hebrew prophets were silent. They had very little to say.
But the archaeologist’s diggings also uncovered remnants of immense houses with tiny little hovels all around them. And the objects in those places showed great economic disparities among the people for that time period. And interestingly enough, it’s during those times that the prophets are the most outspoken especially regarding the neglect of the poor.
Now, I’m not saying wealth is a bad thing. It’s not. Anyone who tells you that doesn’t know the Bible. Remember in Ecclesiastes it says that it is God who gives people the power to achieve and enjoy wealth. God is not against wealth. All He asks is that those with help those without.
Today we call that social justice. We’ve heard a lot about racial justice on the news lately, and rightly so. It’s an issue that’s long overdue in being addressed and one we as a society haven’t quite figured out and gotten our arms around yet. And very often the issues of social justice and racial justice overlap. So, for the next few days, I simply want to point out a few biblical principles regarding the two.
In today’s scripture regarding social justice, what God is saying through Malachi is, “We can’t ignore the needy and look out for only ourselves. We’re called to be stewards of justice, so that means we need to remember the poor and the powerless. It’s our job to care for the little, and the least, and the last, and the lost.”
Can you imagine?
- God’s people oppressing hired workers. Forcing them to live below the poverty line or to try and survive on minimum wage?
- God’s people forgetting widows and orphans. Neglecting the people who live on the street?
- People in the richest county in the world having to beg for food.
- God’s people rejecting foreigners. Looking down on those from different places, avoiding those who can’t speak the language or do so with a thick accent, making fun of people who look different and have different customs from another culture?
The reality is that it happens every day. Someone once said the church has become more concerned with “just us” than with “justice”; that the temptation is always there for God’s people to sequester themselves and put themselves and their wants and their needs and their desires first. Recent statistics support this, showing that many churches spend more money on its buildings and ground maintenance than on missions and outreach. Ouch.
I hope that the devotionals of the next few days will help to open our eyes to the opportunities that are all around us to reach out in Jesus’ name and help others. I also hope they help us to remember that we are truly fortunate with all we have. But mostly I hope they help us to remember that because we are in the position to do so, we are called by scripture to help those in need.
“Father, Open our eyes and our hearts. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”