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Archive for July 13th, 2018


Tobit 2: Mockery

Friday, July 13, 2018

It is so easy to say that the story of Tobit is about healing and reparation and then move on to another story; yet today’s Noontime gives us the opportunity to sit with a portion of this narrative and to reflect on its meaning in our own lives.  We see Tobit’s virtue and courage in the first chapter where he is introduced; and we understand that he is a Jewish man who practices his faith and lives with his family in exile in Nineveh, Assyria.  Tobit is unusual, however, in that he shares his meal and his clothes with the poor, and he buries the dead bodies of those slain by the enemy and left for the birds and animals to consume.  On this particular day, Tobit has brought back the corpse of a man that was left in the market.

Commentary will point out that Tobit enters the house after a simple ablution and does not wait for the ritual seven days as is required in Numbers 19:11-19. He washes himself, eats his meal, and while he waits for sunset so that he might bury the unknown man, he meditates on Amos 5:11 and 8:4-6 from the prophecy which criticizes the wealthy who trample the poor and steal their grain rather than feeding or helping them.  Tobit cries at all of this sadness and finally he buries the dead man once the sun has gone down.  As a consequence of all of this goodness, he is mocked by his neighbors . . . and even his wife.  We do not know if Tobit sleeps outdoors because of the heat or because he has been in contact with a dead body, but in either case, the consequence is the same . . . he becomes blind.  In this way, the writer sets up the story for us: “The pious Israelite suffers because he attends to the needs of others”.  (Mays 722)

When we reflect on Tobit’s circumstances we might find ourselves in his story.  How often do we follow the rules – even at great emotional and fiscal cost – yet we feel blind to the success others enjoy and are even made to feel foolish?  We know that others do not adhere to the basic requirements of life and yet they seem to suffer no negative consequences.  We may find ourselves wondering why we do what God asks if all we receive in return is the disdain of others.  We see that ridicule and derision are the tools most frequently used by those who operate in cliques.  Respect for one another, a sense of fair play, and reward for doing as God asks seem at first to bring fierce suffering rather than reward and The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men. (Psalm 12:8The good man suffers because he attends to the needs of others.  So why try to do as God asks if the reward is . . . mockery?

We cannot in one day hope to understand why bad things happen to good people and why bad people seem to live free of consequence.   We can, however, begin to take small steps toward the understanding that God brings goodness out of evil . . . always . . . that the wicked only appear to escape consequence . . . always . . . that goodness brings a reward from God far greater than any we can devise for ourselves . . . always . . . and that it is in union with God that we experience true and lasting happiness . . . always.

Jesus himself is ignored and mocked by many.  Why should we be excluded from this treatment at the hands of those who fear goodness?  From childhood I was taught that self respect is the only respect we need earn.  I learned from my parents that cliques are formed by those who need them most.  I was taught to see that blindness comes in many forms and that what we call disability can actually be a boon.

As an adult I have come to understand how wise my parents were, and I try to pass this wisdom on to my children and grandchildren.  I have come to know that the only good opinion that matters is God’s; and that I need not unravel all the evil in the world or convert all the wicked.  I recognize that God has asked me to play a role in his kingdom building . . . and this I try to do as well as I am able each day, trying to see creation as God does – as the dawning of something new and beautiful each day.  So this is how I have arrived at responding to anyone who may ridicule me for conforming to God’s will: I live in the belief that those who practice exclusion rather than inclusion live in fear . . . and that those who mock us most are most in need of our understanding, our patience, our prayer and our love.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 722. Print.


Image from: https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/earth-from-space-15-amazing-things-in-15-years

We will be away from the Internet for several days. Please enjoy this reflection first posted on July 22, 2011.

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