A Broken World and broken People
Bible Readings : Micah 6:6-8 / Luke 7:36-50
Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim
As our Lent journey brings us closer to the cross, this week we are considering the injustice and oppression that arise from “morally poor” decisions – issues such as racism, climate change, corporate greed and more. What does Jesus and the Bible say about these issues and how can we as Christians begin to loosen the chains of the injustice that morally poor decision cause?
We are continuing the Lenten series of ‘Loose the chains of injustice’ on this third Sunday of Lent. To understand and address poverty, we look at three areas of poverty, ‘material, moral and spiritual’ areas. Today we particularly look at ‘moral poverty’ and see how ‘morally poor decisions’ caused the injustice in the world and think about what we can do to loose that chain.
Well known Micah passage reminds us of what the Lord require of us, Christians.
The gospel reading from Luke 7 describes that Jesus was invited by the Simon, pharisee. In Jesus’ day, there are three certain “rules”&rituals when someone comes to your house: a kiss of greeting, washing of feet and anointing with oil. But Simon did not do any of these rituals. The woman takes a tremendous risk and has acted more graciously than Simon. This woman with the Alabaster Jar was labelled as sinful and not clean. The woman is described by Luke as a ‘sinner.’ The text implies that she was actively known as a sinner. As the story unfolds we can surmise that her reputation turns on sexual activity of some sort. We know this because she lets her hair down, which in that time period was only done by prostitutes. The whole system of our society still allows this kind of woman or man being labelled as sinful and unclean.
Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven,’. Like him we want to break the chains around them, but the chains of injustice seemingly difficult to break through.
There are two areas that I want to focus on this morning to explore what the Bible talks about those two issues and what we can learn not to make any more morally poor decisions.
- Racism – 2 Samuel 11
The story in 2 Samuel 11, King David’s affair with Bathsheba is one of the best-known stories in the Bible. Most readers, do not identify 2 Samuel 11 as the ‘Story of Uriah the Hittite. The storyteller consistently tells us that Uriah was a Hittite. ‘Uriah the Hittite’ was a victim of social, political, and religious discrimination. It is noteworthy that the marker ‘the Hittite’ is attached to the name ‘Uriah’ (2 Samuel 11:3, 6, 17, 21, 24). The way the narrators record his name with an attachment of his ethnic/racial origin delivers an interesting relation with David and Bathsheba. The struggle over Uriah’s identity in the text could be seen as similar to the difficulties faced by many migrants today in our society.
In terms of class and gender, Uriah was an insider: he had a prominent position in the Israelite army and Jerusalem community. But in terms of race and ethnicity, he was an outsider: he is consistently labelled as a ‘Hittite’ and was tragically betrayed and abandoned by his king, David.
Uriah was an officer of Israel’s army. His name is included in the list of the Thirty (2 Samuel 23:24–39). Uriah was named among an important official list of an elite group of officers in the Israelite army.
The name Uriah is a good Yahwistic name, which means ‘Yahweh is my light/fire’.
The text records that Uriah’s house was in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:8, 9). This leads us to believe that he was a native of Jerusalem. The proximity of Uriah’s house to the king’s could indicate that he was a prominent member of the royal-military circles.
Bathsheba is described unfavourably because of Uriah in the narrative. In the text, she is identified with two relationships, ‘the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite’ (2 Samuel 11:3b). “It is unusual for a woman’s patronymic to be given, especially when she is identified by her husband’s name. This suggest that the identity of Bathsheba’s father was significant.
For Bathsheba it can be understood that her father or grandfather was more important than her husband. It is compelling that if the scribes had recorded Uriah’s name without the term ‘Hittite’, then Bathsheba would likely have been simply written as ‘the wife of Uriah’ without her patronymic.
Why then were the narrators so devoted to have Bathsheba as an Israelite woman? Later she would be a wife of David and the mother of Solomon. Having the ‘right’ wife and the ‘right’ mother for Israel’s identity is important for an Israelite. It was also significant for David to have the ‘right wife’, an Israelite woman, in order to preserve and maintain his dynasty. Therefore the scribes needed to make sure that Bathsheba was the ‘right’ wife to David and the ‘right’ mother to Solomon. By inserting ‘the daughter of Eliam’ into Bathsheba’s name, the narrative demonstrates that she was a legitimate Israelite woman.
As a migrant from South Korea who has lived in Australia for a long time, I consider myself a Korean-Australian. Questions like, ‘Who am I?’, ‘What is my cultural identity?’, ‘Am I a Korean-Australian or Australian-Korean?’ have been part of my journey.
Because of my Korean appearance it is questionable whether other Australians would consider me as a fellow Australian. Being a minister of the Uniting Church, living in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney and living in upper north shore now, I regard myself as holding a secure social and economic position, and I am more secure than many other Australians. My social and economic position, however, does not influence other people’s presumptions about me. To them, because of my face, I am an outsider. Although I do not have an Australian accent, I have called Australia ‘home’ and been a loyal citizen. I am a bit like Uriah the Hittite: I want to be part of the main group and believe that I can be part of that, but in fact I have never been fully accepted. Uriah had worked hard and established himself well in an Israelite community. But at the end he was betrayed by the King whom he had served faithfully and supported wholeheartedly.
The account of Uriah the Hittite in 2 Samuel 11 certainly challenges us and the church as both have experienced a changing multicultural landscape.
Our morally poor decisions could make many Uriahs in our society. We should fully embrace many Uriahs beyond their race and ethnicity.
- Climate change
Norman Habel served as Professorial Fellow at Flinders University, Adelaide. He is well known Eco theologian in the world. Habel mentions ‘a new Earth consciousness’ which is an awareness that we human beings are simply one of many groups ‘in the diverse “household of planet Earth”, a community of ecosystems. He argues that some biblical texts mislead the readers to exploit the creation and nature. His main question for responsible Christians is ‘Is a green reading of the Bible possible?’
Among one of the many factors that influenced the development of our Western drive to exploit nature is the mandate to dominate in Genesis 1:26–8. It is considered to a strong source of the popular belief that it was God’s will to harness nature. For Hable, the flood narrative is also significant is showing how the Bible gives human beings permission to exploit nature. Whether you fully agrees with him or not, sometimes Bible can be problematic when we make our moral decisions.
Let’s consider three reasons why we should care for the environment .
- Creation is a gift from God.
All creation is a holy and precious gift from God. The call to care for our planet extends as far back as the Book of Genesis when humankind was called to “till and keep” the earth. But we have done too much tilling and not enough keeping.
The theme of loving creation runs through both the Old and the New Testaments. In Jesus Christ, God not only became human but also lived in the natural world. Jesus himself appreciated the natural world, as you can see in the Gospel passages where he praises creation and speaks about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Basically, the world is not only holy much as we would like it to be. It is God’s.
- The poor are disproportionately affected by climate change.
The disproportionate effect of environmental change on the poor and on the developing world is well documented. This is not simply because the rich often make economic decisions that don’t take the poor into account but because the poor have fewer financial resources to help them adapt to climate change. They cannot move, protect their houses or switch jobs as easily as the rich can.
The Gospels are against the exclusion of anyone from the benefits of the earth’s goods. And in decisions regarding the environment and the use of the earth’s common resources, we are called to appreciate of needs and dignity of the poor. Remember, Jesus said that we would be judged on how we treat the poor. That includes how our decisions on climate change affect them.
- Greed is not good.
In recent article, Pope Francis reserves his strongest criticism for the wealthy who ignore the problem of climate change and especially its disproportionate effect on the poor. Why do so many wealthy people turn their backs on the poor? Not only because some view themselves as more “worthy,” but because frequently decision-makers are far removed from the poor with no real contact with their brothers and sisters.
Selfishness affects not simply those in the developing world but also those living on the margins in more developed countries. But in the Christian worldview, there is no room for selfishness or indifference. You cannot care for creation if your heart lacks compassion for your fellow human beings.
So the next time you vote about climate change, think not only about you but about the other person. Think not only about your own city but about the cities, towns and villages in the developing world. Think not only about the wealthy but the poor. In other words, think not only about your wallet but your soul. We are continuing to think about our morally poor decisions at our next study on Wednesday. We will deal with a few more issues more deeply.