Thursday, September 9, 2010

Impoverished Hands

“I am a well dried up!”
Work can feel like a burden.  Taken to an excess, polluted with deadlines and extra hours, occupations become an enemy to human relations; however, without occupation the human being lives with empty hands.  It is not the promise of a pay check or the call of prosperity that makes the human heart glad, rather, it is the fullness of our occupational womb.  In other words, the human wants to be recognized as a vibrant member of a community that acknowledges their particular gift and contribution.  We were made to uniquely reproduce the artistry of God through various helpful and beautiful occupations.
Somewhere I have read, and I cannot remember where, that it was decided, at some point in Jewish history, by a group of rabbis that the highest fulfillment of “Love… .your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27) was to get your neighbor a job.  Yes, to “love your neighbor” at its best meant to provide your neighbor with the sense of dignity that comes with being a vibrant member of a community where their particular gift and contribution is welcomed as a necessary resource.  This is about more than paychecks….
Deep physical and emotional hunger is about more than paychecks as well.  It strikes at the heart of human dignity.  Poverty empties more than the stomach… .it also empties the industrious hands.  The human is called into question as such.  Are they useful and needed?  Are they a vibrant member with a unique gift?  Have they anything to offer?  No.  Poverty has emptied their hands.  They are an orphan, a widow, a beggar… .they are not needed, they are only a need.  They represent our great losses and remind us of our striped down condition….  
Imagine yourself a destitute widow.  Naomi entered Bethlehem with a young Moabitess; a Jewish widow and a Gentile widow.  They were barren through and through.  There was much to whisper about.  Israelite women had not been exempted from human nature.  Their widowed thoughts were heavy: What would happen next?  Where would they go for food and comfort?  The hope of these widows waited upon Yahweh’s Law that preserved justice for impoverished hands; however, that Law was placed in the power of humanity.  Would humanity be generous in its part?  Would humanity love kindness?  And who would restore their dignity?  Who would go beyond justice and do justice These destitute women were not vibrant members, they were impoverished lives offering barrenness.  They had suffered many losses.  
…And in wisdom they would not make demands for justice, they would shrewdly and lawfully seek out redemption of their dignity from a Goel.  
“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God,” Micah 6:8.

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