Are you familiar with the story of Josiah, the boy king? Found in 2 Kings, maybe elsewhere.
In his story, he goes about trying to setting the temple back a-right, after years of neglect. In the process, he finds the Lost Book of the Law - their scriptures. After reading it and realizing how far away Israel had wandered from God's teachings, young Josiah tore his clothes in despair.
I feel that way sometimes. That our scriptures have been Lost. Only this time, they weren't lost, hidden away in some secret cabinet in a neglected temple. They were lost by means of obfuscation.
Our churches have for years obcured and twisted the scriptures in to something that only bears a passing resemblance to the words therein. Hidden in plain sight.
I grew up in a Baptist church - people of the Bible, they call themselves. And rightly so. The Baptists really push personal study of the Bible, which is a grand thing and for which I'm grateful. But they also so thoroughly taught me what the Bible says, that it has been difficult for me to get beyond those teachings to what the Bible actually says.
I don't think it has always been deliberate or mean-spirited. Our teachings have been passed down this way probably much the way of that old party game where you get in a line and whisper something in the first person's ear and everyone passes it down and the message at the end is often amusingly distorted.
So it has been with some surprise to me that as I try to read the Bible with fresh eyes and an open heart, that I'm discovering the bible is chock full of economic issues.
Remember Mary's song she sang when she was expecting Jesus? Do you remember the line: "The Lord has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. God has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty." Interesting...
We all remember wild-eyed John the Baptist, dressed in his camelskin and eating bugs and calling for repentance. But do we recall WHY he called for repentance? Here's what John said:
"You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance...
"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.
John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
For John the Baptist, repentance was directly tied to economic justice. Solidarity with the poor.
When John asked Jesus who he was, remember Jesus' answer? "Tell John about the outcasts being healed and that I'm preaching good news to the poor." To the poor specifically!
Or how about when Jesus told the rich young man what he needed to do to be saved, remember? Was it to pray to God for forgiveness and "dedicate his life to Jesus"? No. Jesus told him to sell all he had and join in with his community. Sadly, the rich man left because, Jesus tells us, it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven!
And Jesus, when he began his ministry told us specifically what he was about, by saying:
God has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord's year of favor.
Good news to the poor – specifically to the poor. Healthcare for the sick. Liberty to captives (and looking into this, one big reason folk were jailed was for economic reasons - "the man who could not pay his bills and was about to be thrown into jail," remember?). And Jesus came to proclaim the "Lord's Year of Favor," a reference, I'm told, to the Jubilee Laws of the Old Testament.