Week of 1 Lent, Year One
[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)
Today’s first reading, on this first Monday of Lent, alerts us to a great danger to our souls. This danger primarily targets the souls of people with well-stocked refrigerators, structurally-sound homes, and interest-bearing savings accounts, so it may not apply to you personally. But the danger doesn’t only target individual souls; it also targets the self-image of any community or population that feels they have “made it.”
The danger is that once we have some measure of material comfort and financial security, we’ll think that we earned these things all on our own. But the Scripture warns us, “Do not say to yourself, ‘My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.'” The minute we credit our own power with our wealth is the minute that we lose touch with God and our neighbors.
In our passage today, we as God’s people are most at risk when we have “eaten [our] fill,” when we “have built fine houses and live in them,” and when our property and money “is multiplied.” We forget that we’ve eaten our fill thanks in part to whole systems of undercompensated labor, generations of agricultural advances, and the blessings of fertile soil and favorable climates. We forget that we have shelter thanks in part to government subsidies and home mortgages that have historically favored some racial groups over others. We forget that our resources have multiplied thanks to advantages we’ve inherited (even small ones), and perhaps thanks to phenomena like compound interest that few people will ever see work in their favor.
Whatever our material circumstances, we should never allow ourselves to say, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” So many factors have delivered to us whatever comforts we have: the sacrifices and choices that our parents and ancestors made for us, the social advantages we’ve enjoyed, the government programs that have worked to our benefit, and the natural resources that God has created and that wise stewards have preserved.
When we hold all this in mind, we can remain connected to the God on whose mercy and providence we depend, and to those neighbors whom prosperity has left furthest behind. Perhaps our powers have brought us some good things in this life, but only trust in God and solidarity with our neighbors will sustain us for the long haul.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.