Thursday, May 22, 2008

Do justice , or succumb to addiction (Proverbs (31:1-9)

The words of King Lemuel, the burden his mother taught him.

What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
It is not for kings to drink wine,
Or for rulers to desire strong drink,
Lest they drink and forget what is decreed,
And pervert the judgment of all the sons of affliction.
Give strong drink to him who is perishing,
And wine to him who is bitter of soul.
Let him drink and forget his poverty,
And remember his trouble no more.
Open your mouth for the dumb,
For the rights of all the unfortunate.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And judge the afflicted and needy.

- Proverbs 31:1-9

This mother's teaching comes immediately before the description of the virtuous woman. What struck me today is the way of escape from corruption and personal disintegration that God provides to the powerful - do justice and defend the weak. Put another way, if you have the authority and power to do justice and you don't, you should expect your wealth and power to devour you. For the helpless the anesthesia of drink may sometimes be appropriate. But for one in authority, that is the path to ruin.

The rich and powerful have their pains. Life is empty for them, too, because as it is written, "Futility of futilities, all is futility." It's easy in that position to find that if high living isn't working, let's try some more.

1 Corinthians 10:13 comes to mind: "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."

For the rich and powerful, the way of escape from the temptation to dissipate their lives in empty pleasure is to do justice to the oppressed - to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

For instance, my privilege as an American citizen is to use my relative security from being murdered, kidnapped, disappeared, and tortured to defend and speak for the non-citizens of the empire, who are regularly subject to these acts of arbitrary power and cruelty. God has not given me various privileges so I can consume them on my lusts. If I do, I myself will be consumed, like so many around me. My salvation, my way of escape, is to do for others as I need God to do for me in my own helpless condition. I'm not doing anyone a favor if I take this way of escape that God has set before me; I am thereby saving myself in this evil day, in which the love many is growing cold because lawlessness is increased (Matthew 24:12).

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