Downstream

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 148, Ezekiel 34:17-31, Hebrews 8:1-13, Luke 10:38-42


When God spoke through Ezekiel, he compared the corrupt and powerful who exploited the poor to sheep who bullied other members of the flock:

Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet? …[Y]ou pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide.

God promised to judge between the overfed and the starving – and it’s no surprise which side he favored. We can read this as a metaphor for spiritual corruption, but in a land where religion and government were the same, corruption and neglect left people starving in many ways.

Are we even aware when our daily activities foul the waters? How often do we look downstream to see how actions impact the people living there? The further upstream we are – in terms of wealth or status, or sometimes literally – the deeper our effect. The waste we generate goes somewhere, and it’s not landing in affluent suburbs.  The money we save by insisting on the lowest possible prices comes out of someone’s wages, but probably not the CEOs.  Luxuries like cell phones and electric cars include materials from mining processes that endanger children and poison the air and water of unprotected lands around the globe. Neither the pasture we trod and the stream we foul, nor the dignity and mercy God asks us to show each other, stop at state, national, or continental boundaries.

Ezekiel tells us God is not concerned with whether the overfed sheep feel they’ve been treated fairly, but with how brutally they wield their flanks and horns to fill their bellies. We’re all upstream of someone. Through conscious effort we can make more justice-oriented decisions about how we live so that those downstream have cleaner, more plentiful water. Less is more.

Comfort: If you are in need, God is on your side.

Challenge: Read this article on how wealthy nations are dumping toxic waste in poorer nations.

Prayer: Merciful God, forgive me for those I have harmed downstream. Grant me the wisdom and strength to do better. Amen.

Discussion: Do you know what happens with the hazardous trash generated by your community?

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