Monday, December 12, 2016

Give What You Have

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. - Proverbs 31:8

Remember the prisoners as if chained with them - those who are mistreated - since you yourselves are in the body also. - Hebrews 13:3 (NKJV)

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 142; 2 Kings 10; Acts 3:1-10

The Bible is packed full of calls to work actively for the well-being of people in all kinds of need. We have two examples in today's Daily Texts verses, and another in the story of Peter (and John) continuing Jesus' ministry of compassion and healing. Throughout the Bible, the idea of "righteousness" (being in right relationship with God) is closely connected with the idea of "justice" (being in right relationship with others, the community, and the world). When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, his answer was to love God with everything you have, and love your neighbor as yourself.

In the Proverbs 31 verse today, we're called to speak, to each use our voice for advocating for those who can't speak for themselves. Psalm 142 shows the power of one's own voice in prayer to God; we can use this power for ourselves and for others. Acts 3 shows Peter using his voice to get the attention of a man in need, to proclaim Christ, and to move him to health. I love the line, "I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk." For me, Peter's words connect to Jesus' "great commandment" to love with everything we have, loving neighbor as self, and inspire me to give what I have for the sake of others.

In our society, speaking up is still important. A couple of quotes I've been reminding myself of lately:
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
But in the last decade or so, we've become so accustomed to social media, blogs, forums, comment sections, and other ways to create and consume "content" that just voicing an opinion has become effortless. If all we do is post something on Facebook, we're effectively remaining silent because the noise level is so loud, we'll be drowned out or forgotten almost immediately.

Our call is to use our voice - and all that we have - for God's purposes, including compassion and active help for people in need. We should still speak! But how can our speaking carry real weight and influence in the world? How can it be connected to real dialogue and mutual learning? How can our voice make a real difference in the world, so that something actually happens to make life better for those in need?

The Hebrews 13 verse urges us to put ourselves in the place of those in need, supporting them as if we were physically there with them. Peter and John live this out, meeting the man in the place where his circumstances limited him to being, looking him in the eye, seeing and acknowledging and meeting his need.

Like a microphone connects our voice to instruments that enter into others' lives and create movement, our call to follow God still includes finding ways to give what we have, so that something really happens. May we be guided by the word of God, especially as spoken into the world in the love and compassion of Jesus. May we pray and ponder and look and listen and discern what needs to be said, and said by us. Then may we say it, and follow through so that something moves in response.

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