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The Safety Net

The Safety Net

Monday, May 26, 2014 – 6 Easter, Year Two

[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 80 (morning) // 77, (79) (evening)

Leviticus 25:35-55

Colossians 1:9-14

Matthew 13:1-16

Our first reading today begins with quite clear orders for God’s people to weave a social safety net. The fibers that held that net together would be woven from a sense of family: “If any of your kin fall into difficulty and become dependent on you, you shall support them.”

This teaching from Leviticus might feel frighteningly burdensome to those of us who have particularly needy relatives and who seek mature rather than co-dependent relationships with our family members. At least the passage goes on to clarify that these people “shall live with you as though resident aliens,” and not necessarily as . . . well . . . deadbeats.

It should also help us to know that God gives laws to all of his people rather than to individuals. God’s laws give us a distinct character as his people; they don’t create burdens that we must shoulder alone.

How then should we, as a whole people, respond to God’s command that we support “any of [our] kin” who “fall into difficulty and become dependent” on us? Perhaps simply by accepting our duty to support one another. Anything less will simply harm us all.

For example, some data have been circulating recently about the costs of providing permanent, supportive housing to the homeless versus the costs of managing the effects of chronic homelessness through arrests and emergency hospitalizations. In Orlando, the price tag of the former is just $10,051 per person per year, while the latter currently costs the public $31,065.

So, not only is it the command of God that we support people in their difficult and dependent circumstances; it also makes fiscal sense. If only we could confront our responsibilities as a people to care for one another rather than abandoning others in the name of “individual responsibility”. We live in a world of original sin and mutual dependence, not in a vacuum of free will and direct consequences.

The God revealed by Christ and proclaimed by Paul embraces and liberates all people as his own. The premise of this passage from Leviticus is that, as God says, “to me the people of Israel are servants; they are my servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt.” Therefore, they cannot be bought, sold, or discarded. Today, let us live as God’s people, as citizens of the kingdom to which he has called us, alongside those who need us.

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.

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