American society seems to be at a crossroads in terms of economic policy. It is not the first time the country has faced such strong opposing perspectives. But this is a critical time.
As Metro Lutheran was going to press, I was finalizing the editing of the two opinion articles — “What card were you dealt?” by the Rev. Paul Harrington and Tim Utter’s “Is it greed, or is it blessing?” The authors of these two commentaries have significantly different views of the cause of the economic struggles we face and the contributions our faith tradition and Biblical interpretation offer.
Adversity will be the result of affluence that isn’t shared by the community.
The lectionary readings assigned for the day I edited these articles (the sixth Sunday of Epiphany) included a fairly familiar passage from the Hebrew scriptures: Deuteronomy 30:15-20. Verses 15 and 16 say this:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.
From verse 16, it is clear that the blessing is communal, not individual. Of course, that would be normal in nomadic or agricultural societies of the time. Individualism was not stressed and was, in fact, somewhat of a foreign concept. Reliance upon those in your clan, however that was identified, was essential for survival.
I noticed for the first time the choice: It’s between “life and prosperity” and “death and adversity.” Now, if prosperity is one polar option, I would have assumed the other was poverty. But, that doesn’t seem to be what is said here. In fact, it seems to be an acknowledgment that adversity will be the result of affluence that isn’t shared by the community. I think this would be a challenge to the arguments of the prosperity gospel movement.
And, from verse 19, it is clear what God is offering the people of God:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.