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Job 12: The Undisturbed

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The undisturbed esteem my downfall a disgrace . . . yet the tents of robbers are prosperous, and those who provoke God are secure.  I imagine that each of us has wondered at one or another how it is that the sleek and flourishing experience success while the downtrodden suffer endlessly.

Job tells us that the beasts of the earth and sea and sky understand that God is in charge.  They do not credit themselves with victory in life but rather understand that the world is ordered from a point outside their control.  In his journey of sorrow and pain Job will learn that the trust he has placed in God is warranted; and he suggests that we take a lesson from these creatures: But now ask the beasts to teach you, and the birds of the air to tell you; or the reptiles on earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you.  Which of these does not know that the hand of God has done this?  In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mankind.  Job continues to delineate God’s power in clear terms.  There is no power greater than God’s; there is no understanding more deep, no prudence more sensible.  As followers of Christ we especially know that there is no love more forgiving and more enduring than God’s.

In his reply to Zophar, Job attempts to describe the enormity and omnipotence of God.  And in speaking to his friend Job assure himself – and us – that even though he suffers innocently he is not forgotten by his all-knowing and all-powerful creator.  Job knows that with patience and an open heart, he will gain the insight of a life lived well: So with old age comes wisdom, and with length of days understanding.  These are gifts from God that we receive through suffering . . . and this is something that those who live undisturbed lives will never learn.

Job is not the only one in scripture to warn us about the opposing worlds of the troubled and the undisturbed.  Paul writes to Timothy: Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.  (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

The prophet Jeremiah also understands the irony of justice in the world. He recounts the Lord’s words: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.  He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season . .  . [The wicked] grow powerful and rich, fat and sleek.  They go their wicked way; justice they do not defend by advancing the claim of the fatherless or judging the cause of the poor.  (Jeremiah 17:5-6 and 5:27)

In the book of Wisdom it is the wicked who say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord.  To us he is a censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us.  (Wisdom 2:12-14)

Scripture is full of advice about how to behave and how to align our lives; but the story of Job is one we will want to hold close, especially when we undergo trials while the successful and cozened lead seemingly charmed lives.  Job’s story – and in particular this response to Zophar – tell us that the dichotomy between the just and the unjust is real.  It is a trial to be borne.  It is a misery to be endured.  Yet through this suffering we receive a gift that the undisturbed will never have.  It is the gift of fully knowing and experiencing God’s great and abiding love.


A repost from March 12, 2012.

Image from: http://erumiou.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/wealth-vs-poverty-in-which-lies-true-happiness/ 

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James 4:11-5:6: Arrogance

Saturday, November 14, 2015

arrogance“James now turns to three forms of arrogance which exemplify life according to the measure of the world. The first is the practice of slander against a neighbor . . . A second form of arrogance is demonstrated by those who make great business plans without considering the fragile nature of their own existence . . . Finally, with a prophetic rage like that of Amos, James attacks the insolence of the rich who withhold wages from their laborers. The security gained by such fraud is illusory; the rich fatten themselves for the day of judgment”. (RG 552)

God says: Gossip and slander are forms of violence just as deadly as bullets. They murder not only the other’s reputation but your own. With your words you pigeon-hole others and rob them of the hope of change. The creation of business without me is another form of violence. When you create wealth without including me you weave fairy castles of illusion. You pretend that you are responsible for all you have stored up and for all that makes you comfortable. When you rob others of their just wages you do more than demoralize them, you presume to set yourself up as supreme judge and arbiter. All of these – gossip, slander, living without me, taking from others what is rightfully theirs – are acts of violence against your fellows and against me. When you turn away from these subtle separations from The Way, you turn toward me. And I welcome you each day with wide and embracing arms.

Study the words of the prophet Amos. Enter his name into the blog search bar and reflect on how our modern lives might fall into the three kinds of arrogance that James describes for us.

Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.RG 552. Print.   

Tomorrow, a prayer for arrogance . . . 

 

 

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Christmas_BethlehemThursday

January 15, 2015

Joy and Micah

Outrage

The prophets warn, threaten, exhort, and promise us that God is always present, even though we may not recognize this presence. The Old Testament prophecies foreshadow the good news of the New Testament, and they remind us that no matter our circumstance God’s joy rescues us from sure destruction, Christ’s joy redeems us from our recklessness, and the Spirit’s joy heals us despite the gravity of our wounds.  Today we feel the outrage of the prophet Micah who challenges the rich, witnesses to the corruption and immorality of religious leaders . . . and offers hope and promise to the exploited.  

The second chapter of Micah begins: Woe to you who lie awake at night, plotting wickedness; you rise at dawn to carry out your schemes; because you can, you do. You want a certain piece of land or someone else’s house (though it is all he has); you take it by fraud and threats and violence. (2:1-2)

We do not have to wonder about the identity of Micah’s audience. A contemporary of Isaiah, little is known about him except that, “With burning eloquence he attacked the rich exploiters of the poor, fraudulent merchants, venal judges, corrupt priests and prophets”. Scholars note that although Micah delivers “reproach and the threat of punishment, [he also offers] a note of hope and promise”. (Senior 1140)

According to Micah, the Lord promises to deliver evil for evil (2:3). The Lord’s threats are for our good, the prophet tells us, to get us on the right path. (2:7) Exasperated, Micah speaks frankly:  You steal the shirts right off the backs of those who trusted you, who walk in peace. You have driven out the widows from their homes and stripped their children of every God-given right. Up! Begone! This is no more your land and home, for you have filled it with sin, and it will vomit you out. I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and drink”—that is the kind of drunken, lying prophet that you like! (2:9-11)

Micah confronts evil with its own image, pointing out to those who find comfort at the expense of truth and integrity that they deceive no one by pretending that the joy they find in temporal pleasure can in any way equal the joy God offers.

Restoration is assured, Micah tells anyone who will listen. Humans will no longer train for war; each one of us might sit serenely beneath our own fig trees without fear. And who will bring this renewal? O Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are but a small Judean village, yet you will be the birthplace of my King who is alive from everlasting ages past! (5:2)

As we reflect on this Christmastide we have so recently shared, let us consider the gift of self that God brings us. And let us remember that despite his outrage . . . Micah brings us the good news of redemption, hope and promise.

For a reflection on finding Christmas in the Old Testament, click on the Bethlehem image above, or visit: http://www.pointcommunitychurch.org/2014/12/christmas-in-the-old-testament/ 

joySenior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990. 1140. Print.

If this week’s Noontimes call you to search for more ways to encounter Joy or urges you to investigate the New Testament, click on the word Joy in the categories cloud in the blog’s right hand sidebar and choose a reflection, or enter those words in the blog search bar. You may want to visit the Joy for the Journey blog at www.joyforthee.blogspot.com

For more information about anxiety and joy, visit: http://riselikeair.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/anxiety-joy-a-journey/

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