Virtuous Commentating

I was reading Mark 2 last night, and when I reached the teaching on the Sabbath, it snatched my attention. The text can be found here. In this text, Jesus’ disciples flout Sabbath protocol by picking grain to eat. This counts as “harvesting,” so they draw the ire of the legalistic religious scholars known as Pharisees.

I’ve read through this text countless times. The point seems clear, that the Sabbath is a gift to people, not a means of controlling them. This time, however, I was captivated by a thought that occurred around verse 24.

The biggest problem here is that the Pharisees would rather point and shout than help.

They could have offered food to the disciples if they cared that much. Instead, they’d rather just point out the problem with the intent of discrediting and shaming the hungry bunch.

How often do we humans do this?

We could help. We could take steps to solve the problem, offer support, act with kindness. Instead, we decide to shame and denounce.

Perhaps the best lesson we could all learn is to contribute good things when we are faced with evil things. The Pharisees’ problem was that they were legalistic about the Holiness Code without helping anyone actually achieve a greater level of holiness. Our problem is that it’s easier/more convenient to shame or insult via social media or conversation than it is to actually help create a healthier environment.

I plan to be more aware of this, watching my words, opting to take action more and more. It’s my hope that more of us will do the same. Virtue signaling does too little, and inaction costs too much.

Peace be with you!

Wait No More

Deprived of signs, with no prophets left, who can say how long this will last? — Psalm 74:9, JB

Religion can be a good thing. For people like me, viewing life as a sacred story full of magic, wonder, struggle, and peace is second nature. The problem comes when the story, with all its rituals and varied perspectives, becomes a means by which we stop doing what we are supposed to do.

Take the Psalm I’ve quoted from, for example. The writer(s) can’t seem to understand why God isn’t swooping down from the sky to fix the temple and save the people from oppressors. They have no signs or prophets, and all that comforts them are the memories of God’s past interventions.

Interestingly enough, though, Moses performed signs, and he was human. The prophets were also human, speaking messages that simply (but powerfully) highlighted the obvious injustices of Israel’s governance and social practices. In fact, when the prophets did speak, they didn’t expect God to fix everything.

They expected the people of Israel to get it together, rather than staring at the sky in anticipation while ignoring what is going on around them. The Spirit is always where It needs to be; we are the “wild cards” in every scenario.

This is a message suitable for all of us today. Particularly in my context (the U.S.), there is a trend of looking for “signs and wonders” from external sources. The “faithful” often look to the sky and wonder when God will make it all work out. Others look to politicians, religious leaders, online personalities, celebrities, anyone we feel might have a special calling or ability to affect change.

Anyone but us.

Perhaps we don’t feel we can make a big enough difference in the world. We could just be lazy or indifferent. Maybe we have lost hope or are too afraid to act.

None of this changes the fact that you, yes, YOU are capable of signs. We are all prophets. We have a voice, something to say or do that contributes to the positive powers of this world. Moreover, we have the God-given freedom and responsibility to utilize what we have for the betterment of this good earth.

Yes, even in our own little corners of the world there are ways we can positively affect the course of the future. Every person, every interaction, every breath is a chance to give a kind word or gesture, a chance to stand up for others. It is these things that should be the sign of one’s faithfulness.

If we follow through, we are the workers of signs and wonders; we are the prophets, as it should be.

Peace be with you!