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Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Ancient Prophets and the Poor

The Readings for Sunday, July 10, 2016:

Nehemiah 2: 1-8; Nehemiah 5: 1-13; Nehemiah 6: 15-16

This Sunday's readings continue the story of the return from exile.  We see the ancient Hebrews continue to wrestle with how to return, how to rebuild, how to be the people of God.

Some of the ways will make modern readers uncomfortable, with the prohibitions against outsiders, even if they are family members.  On the other hand, in Nehemiah 5, we see ancient people wrestling with problems that seem eternal:  how much interest on borrowed money is it OK to charge?

And there is the larger issue of how to treat the disadvantaged, a theme which runs throughout much of the Bible.  The message again and again comes to us that we must act differently.

What does this mean for modern people? 

I'm guessing that most of us reading these passages in our church this week are not in the business of charging usurious interest.  Every business owner whom I know personally is barely holding on, and certainly not taking advantage of workers or customers.

Some of us might need to consider our investments--we may be investing in companies who are not behaving nicely.  Modern investing makes it difficult to know.

I know people who hear the call of the ancient prophets and decide to divest completely, or to only keep cash reserves in credit unions and other institutions that are less likely to be damaging to the larger society.

If we're not willing to go that far, we can use our charitable giving to help the poor.  And more importantly, we can use our influence to try to steer our societies towards justice.  We do that each year with our BOLDJustice events.

What would a modern prophet call to our collective attention?  How can we respond?

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