Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbour, ‘Go, and come again; tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you. Do not plan harm against your neighbour who lives trustingly beside you. Do not quarrel with anyone without cause, when no harm has been done to you. Do not envy the violent and do not choose any of their ways; for the perverse are an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence. The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the abode of the righteous. Towards the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favour. The wise will inherit honour, but stubborn fools, disgrace.
These teachings actually assume the reader is in the position of power. Power is a tricky subject, with multiple meanings, abuses, and ways of sneakily staying hidden. The rhetoric of neo-liberalism teaches that each person equally holds power and privilege; only individual actions and decisions influence their path. Yet black theology, liberation theology, queer theology and, more recently the discussion around Black Lives Matters, have all displayed how structural injustice is apparent in our lives. It affects both individuals and communities. The advice in today’s passage is telling us not to play the system for our own benefit. If our neighbour needs something that we have, we do not make them wait – we selflessly give.
Sometimes we think it is wise to be stubborn with our resources, to wait for them to increase so we can make the best decision financially, to help the most people. But stubborn fools are disgraced. To be wise is not to be so secure in our own decisions and resources but to listen, learn, share, and see our worldly possessions as God’s. Not to foolishly give away to flaunt on social media but to humbly elevate the ‘perverse’ and disgraced by enabling them to participate in the sharing of God’s resources and Kingdom.
Gracious God, Mother and Father of All, help us see beyond ourselves, beyond our own privilege and desires, enable us to bring those who are disgraced into your body, let them be loved, held and protected, aid us in dismissing the culture of individuality, and show how we can share your Kingdom with our world.
Victoria Turner, is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh and a member of Augustine United Church in Edinburgh.