As school starts, we wonder…
This week our guest writer, Scott Parker, asks whether “our provision has dulled our humility.” Has our abundance caused us to forget Jesus’ call to sacrifice so we can walk in solidarity with “the least of these?”
Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?” – 1 Samuel 25:10-11
The name Nabal is similar to the Hebrew word for fool. Like, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God (Psalm 53:1).” Jesus wasn’t scared to identify a “Nabal” in his parable about a man who stored up his riches so he could retire in ease. “You fool! God said to the man, ‘This very night your life will be demanded from you’”. Likewise, Nabal is living in a warped understanding of reality. In his twisted point of view, the fact that David has a need, must mean that David is his inferior. Unlike Jacob, who saw himself as unworthy and cried out for mercy, Nabal sees no need to show David any respect. “Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers, and give it to men coming from who knows where?”
Do we find ourselves feeling superior when people come to us in need? Has our provision dulled our humility? Have we equated opportunity and the fruit of our labors with being worthy? Are we recipients of an unjust system governed by unjust Nabals? Do we benefit from those who have insulted the least of these and God’s anointed who identifies with them?
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." - Matthew 25: 45-46.
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Today we celebrate a renowned figure in our nation’s history. But have we honored his mission by continuing his legacy of Christian solidarity?
King once insisted “[t]he Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unites them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so the soul will have a chance after it is changed (Christianitytoday.com)"
The first hand is, for the most part, comfortable. Lying permanently in sentiment, in emotion, in alternating notions of longing and fulfillment, this foundation of faith draws us ultimately into the comfort of a savior we recognize as the complete lover of our soul.
The second hand, though, crashes this holy sentiment into the concrete despair and separation of our entirely too fragile human existence. In a quite divided America, the thought of reaching out in relationship to people of a different class, faith, race, or sexual orientation is daunting to say the least. It’s not that we indict the “other” as less worthy of receiving the first hand’s “changed soul”. In fact we are practiced in looking at others with a hefty pride, insisting they need this “changed soul” more than those of our own clan. “Most of my people have already been changed,” we claim.
Maybe, though, it’s time for us to concern ourselves with the “environmental conditions of men” that Dr. King urged us to consider. For, though progress has been made, far too many people right here in our city of Chicago face the overwhelming task of navigating the unfair hand they’ve been dealt. Suppose we took to heart the significant impact an unequal society has on individuals and communities of color who are longing to just “have a chance”.
Could we bring about real change?
And he wasn’t patient in doing so:
Jesus also called for equality which, for him, started with intentional relationship:
Calling for feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, taking care of the sick, and visiting those in prison Jesus makes it personal: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." - Matthew 25:31-46
And so can you and I. We can seek ways to build relationships with people who don’t look, worship, act or talk like us.
We can ask important questions and wait to hear their hard answers.
We can follow King’s call to share our "affluence” and time with organizations that build relationships and invest in communities where inequality persists.
We can follow Jesus’ call to live in solidarity with those who are hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and in prison.
In turn, we can more faithfully connect the two roads of the Christian gospel we profess.