House of Cards


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, 2 Samuel 13:23-39, Acts 20:17-38, Mark 9:42-50

We are a nation built on a house of credit cards.

Buy now, pay later. Ninety days same as cash. Getting what we want when we want it seems great, but the people who market credit to us (and it’s a product, not a favor) make more money when we can’t pay them back right away. It’s not called interest for nothing. Middle class households easily overextend themselves into bankruptcy, and between interest and fees poorer people borrow their way right into modern indentured servitude.

Delayed payments are always the most expensive.

It’s difficult to say whether David learned this lesson the hard way, or not at all. When David’s first-born son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, David was angry but did nothing because he loved Amnon. Tamar’s full brother Absalom spent two years plotting his revenge on Amnon. He invited all the king’s sons to a feast, and when Amnon was “merry with wine” he ordered his servants to strike Amnon dead. Afterward Absalom fled. It was three more years before he would reunite with his family, but even then the rift between them grew ever worse.

When we sin against others – as individuals, as families, as cultures, or as nations – we don’t do ourselves any favors by delaying payment in the form of repentance. Even if it seems we got away with it, the undercurrent is waiting to drag us down. Especially when it comes to past societal sins, we might want people to just “get over it” … but David could have told you how well that works.

If we sin at an individual level – abuse, neglect, greed, deception – we need to make individual repentance. If we sin at a societal level – systemic oppression, environmental devastation – we need to make repentance at a societal level. That can be tough pill to swallow, because we don’t always feel individually responsible. Yet scripture tells us time and again individuals rise and fall with their communities, regardless of personal culpability. That’s a pretty good reason to participate in the conscience of your community before the cards come due and tumble down.

Additional Reading:
For thoughts on today’s reading from Mark, see There is no eye in team Jesus.

Comfort: Repentance will set you free. 

Challenge: When repentance seems unfair, remember it is not about guilt, but healing.

Prayer: But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. (Psalm 5:11)

Discussion: How do you feel about cleaning up messes you didn’t personally make?

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