As our country begins to ramp up for presidential elections later this year, we hear people on the evening news talking about the Bible and how, since our country was founded on biblical principles, as its citizens we should continue to live out those same biblical principles today. So how are we doing?
In the reading from Isaiah we hear the Lord say, “Share your bread with the hungry.” In my community here in mid-Wisconsin we actually had to move our food pantry to a larger building in order to accommodate the generosity of people who wish to share bread with those in need. “Shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked.” In addition to expanding the food pantry our community also opened a warming shelter with showers, laundry and meals available.
But is that really enough? We can praise those who donate bread to the food pantry while unconsciously blaming the people who go there just for being hungry. We can work to open a warming shelter and still buy clothes manufactured under oppressive sweatshop conditions overseas. The prophet isn’t talking about what other people are to do; the prophet is talking about what we are to do. “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech … then light shall rise for you in the darkness.” The light that rises must be our light. We must lift the gloom for those who walk in darkness by removing oppression, false accusation and malicious speech from our day-to-day, business-as-usual lives. We can think we are the most enlightened people on the planet and still spread gloom wherever we go.
“You are the salt of the earth.” Refining salt is a long and tedious process. How salty am I? “You are the light of the world.” A candle is consumed even as it gives its light. How bright is my light? Biblical principles call for a willingness to pour myself out for the good of the other. Am I really ready to do that? Or would I rather just hear about it on the evening news?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.