Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 143; 147:12-20, Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 17:14-20, 2 Corinthians 8:1-16, Luke 18:1-8
As the Jewish people prepared to settle into the promised land, God laid down some rules about who might be their king. The king could be rich, but not too rich. He could have wives, but not many wives. And quite specifically, he could have horses, but not too many horses, especially if he had to get them from Egypt, where the people were forbidden to return. These conditions were meant to keep the king focused on God and to prevent him from “exalting himself above other members of the community.”
The wealthy and powerful have always lived by different rules than others, not only because they can afford to buy their way out of consequences for their actions, but because we make different assumptions about the wealthy and the poor. And since we have not yet untangled our nation’s historical relationship between race and poverty, that disparity becomes even more pronounced across racial divides. Add to that mix the prosperity gospel which teaches God financially rewards the faithful – and conversely implies the poor are lacking faith and morality – and the down-on-their-luck are perceived as unworthy of luck. Outcomes of the supposedly blind justice system are more predictable by economic status and race than by similarity of crime. From health care to education to housing loans, many systems are designed – often through lack of understanding but sometimes intentionally – to give further advantage to the already advantaged, and more insidiously to make us believe that’s just and fair.
What’s the remedy for this? In 2 Corinthians, Paul tells the church a “fair balance” is not based on what you’ve earned, but on what needs you can help relieve. He reminds them, “It was written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’” Moving money around is relatively easy. Moving social capital around is more difficult, is more time-consuming, and requires more intentional education, effort, and sacrifice. Jesus invites us to develop a deeper sense of justice more concerned with who we can serve than with what we deserve.
Comfort: We are all equal before God.
Challenge: Read this article about racial disparities in criminal sentencing.
Prayer: Merciful God, may Your justice transform our land and lives. Amen.
Discussion: What can you do to promote justice in your community?
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