Channels of God's Will
Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-16
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help." - Ecclesiastes 4:9-16
Reflection: I want to share a little something about faith and labor rights. From a Judeo-Christian perspective, where I come from, it is easy, as it would be from the Muslim perspective and from other religious perspectives as well. Read the Hebrew prophets and you will see a clear moral imperative: take care of the poor, the hungry, the widows and orphans and the workers of the world and be sure they receive social and economic justice. This is, for the prophets, the word of the Lord in neon lights. It trumps all other religious obligations, and that includes fine public prayers, amazing and inspiring worship services, beautiful buildings and all else. The prophets, speaking as they do in God’s name, say, “This is the sacrifice I desire” and you may understand this to mean, “This is what religion is supposed to be doing.” Furthermore, this is what any community should be doing if it has a basis in faith.
So, here is an example of how the prophets talk, acting as channels of the divine will. Given that this is Lent and many tackle or try to tackle the discipline of fasting during this time, these words speak:
Isaiah 58:6 "No, the kind of fast I want is that you stop oppressing those who work for you and treat them fairly and give them what they earn.
The corollary to these words is a promise of blessing:
Isaiah 58:11 And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
This is addressed not to an individual, but to a community. The “you” is plural. So much of what we hear in the media about individual and personal religion misses a key biblical point: the divine will is interested in communities of justice and, in the end, communities of love-that is, caring for others. It’s so simple that it’s amazing so many miss it. The language of scripture is plain. It speaks about community in terms of the need for justice and it speaks against greed and withholding wages from workers and God’s desire to support the vulnerable among us.
It does not leave room for rationalizations in order to justify greed or low wages, like we find in neo-liberal “let the market decide” economics or arguments in favor of everyone independently making it on their own. Justice for the worker is a major moral imperative in all Judeo-Christian scripture, as it is in other faith traditions. When a society or community or nation does these things and acts with fairness and justice, a blessed community is the result.
We are all workers in the same vineyard. Since it’s always good to know that we have God on your side, here once more are the words of Isaiah: The kind of fast that I want is that you stop oppressing your workers and treat them fairly and give them what they earn.
By The Rev. Paul Carlson, Our Savior's Lutheran Church
Prayer: Loving God, make us clear channels of your divine will. Help us to always remember that a blessed community is possible only if there is fairness and justice.