First Thoughts on the Lectionary: February 2: Part 1.

Micah 6:1-8

6:1 Hear what the LORD says:

6:6 “With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”

6:8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 

I feel like I have hit the mother load of justice scriptures this week.  Maybe I will have to have two or three posts.

My reaction to Micah’s text is that he describes perfectly how I would like to live, as a complete person, doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly through life with God at my side.

There is a tendency to separate parts of this text: to talk about the justice piece without talking about kindness or humility.  I want to live the whole texts. 

Somehow in my later years I have become identified as the “justice” person. 

Doing justice, not just talking about it on the internet, or in book clubs, but actually engaging in actions with others and individually, is sometimes very hard work.  One makes enemies.  At times I have been charged with arrogance and stubbornness. 

I tell you plainly that I would rather be known as someone who loves kindness than as someone who does justice.  My father was the most humble man I have even known and I have always tried to be like him 

This past year, through the blogosphere, I re-connected with an old friend from my home church in high school, Diana Trautwein.  When she saw me on Esther Emery’s blog she wrote 

  Wow. Thank you for this. I knew Newell once, many years ago, when I was about 15 years old. We went to a party or a dance together and I thought he was the nicest young man I ever knew 

That pleased me greatly.  That is how I always wanted to be known, but since I have become associated with doing justice, I have lost that identity.  It grieves me.  So as I read Micah I understand why he puts these three directives together

Yes, we are to do justice: always.

Yes, we are to love kindness.  That is to be our constant mode of being in the world: always. 

And we are to remain humble before God and all those with whom we interact as we walk through life.

 

It is not a balance between the three – it is a matter of being all three at the same time.  I pray God help me in maintaining these qualities.

 

 

 

 

Psalm 15

15:1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill? 

15:2 Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart 

15:3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;

 

15:4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;

 

15:5 who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.

 

 

It is my personal belief that interest is the greatest sin in the world today.  We live on a planet with limited resources which are being depleted.  Economic growth is the cause of this depletion and interest is the instrument that causes the need for economic growth.   Did you ever ask, why can’t we simply be satisfied with what we have?  Why does the economy need to grow?  It is because of interest.  Our economy needs to grow each year by the amount of money paid in interest or it will eventually collapse.  It is a Ponzi Scheme which has to grow or it will all collapse.

 

But that is not why the Psalmist forbade lending money at interest.

 

The Hebrew people were freed from slavery in Egypt.  That was the key identity of the Hebrew people as the settled in Palestine – they were once slaves but now were free.

 

At this time in world history the majority of human beings on the planet were slaves.  All empires needed slaves to keep their economies working.  The Jewish experiment of creating a society without slavery was unique and precious and jealously guarded by God.  

 

They managed to live free of slavery in Palestine for several hundred years, living in large family groups – tribes, taking care of each other.  The words “riches” and “poor” are rarely mentioned in the first five books of the Bible.

 

As the tribes settled into the land and adopted the hierarchy system of the Canaanites, having a king and aristocracy, new challenges faced them.  One of these was the idea of property economics – the idea that property could be represented by money.   This idea became prominent in the region in the eighth century B.C.   When small property owners needed to borrow money to purchase seeds or equipment of the next year’s crop, they now had to put up their property as surety for the loan.  After a bad year, if there was interest on the loan, they got further and further into debt, lost their property, and became debt slaves.  King Hezakiah, around 722 BC, (Exodus 20 – 23) and King Josiah around 620 (Deuteronomy) oversaw reforms in the laws which prohibited charging interest and forgiveness of loans – all with the idea of preventing anyone from becoming a slave.  These are the texts that the Psalmist is quoting. 

The church maintained the prohibition of charging interest until it needed more money to finance the crusades.  But that is another story. 

 

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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