This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
Massacre of innocents in Syria
Wise Sayings of Solomon
10The proverbs of Solomon.
A wise child makes a glad father, but a foolish child is a mother’s grief.
2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.
3 The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
5 A child who gathers in summer is prudent, but a child who sleeps in harvest brings shame.
6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
7 The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.
8 The wise of heart will heed commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
9 Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever follows perverse ways will be found out.
10 Whoever winks the eye causes trouble, but the one who rebukes boldly makes peace.*
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offences.
The proverbs attraibuted to Solomon are in fact the wisdom of the people of Israel. They are traditional, conservative wisdom derived from the experience of many generations, assisted by the wit of wise men and women, collected and preserved by scribes working for the court or the temple. They don’t mince words but deliver their uncompromising verdicts in contrasts that look obvious at first glance but often reveal unexpected insights. We know that Jesus respected the wisdom of his people, used proverbial expressions and was fond of the dustinction between wise and foolish people which is found throughout the wisdom tradition of Israel.
“Treasures gained by wickedness do not prosper but righteousnes delivers from death”-Jesus said something like that.
“The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.” However much we wish this were true, it isn’t.”
“Whoever winks the eye (at evil deeds) causes trouble but the one who rebukes boldly makes peace.” That doesn’t seem at all obvious but expresses a powerful truth.
“Hatred stirs up strife but love covers all offences.” If someone else had said this we might dismiss it as woolly optimism but when it comes from generations of Israelis we sit up and take notice.
Jesus and Beelzebul
22 Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see.23All the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’24But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.’25He knew what they were thinking and said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.26If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?27If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists* cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you.29Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered.30Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.31Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.32Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
Jesus is faced by the accusation that he uses the black arts to cast out demons. He ridicules this opinion by asking the crowd why Satan is apparently at war with his own team. Why can’t they see that the true hidden agent in Jesus’ healings is God’s creative spirit? He issues the terrible warning that those who see the compassionate work of God’s spirit and call it evil may be unable to access that compassion when they need it. It is not that God refuses to forgive-after all Jesus prayed forgiveness for his killers-it is that persistent, wilfull denial of God’s goodness may insulate a person from it. In all of this teaching Jesus shows himself a true interpreter of the wisdom of Israel; a genuine user of its rough wit.
Christianity has been noted for absolute judgements rather than shrewd aphorisms because of its theoogical arrogance and its over- rigorous distinction between clergy (who should speak) and people (who should listen). John Calvin the reformer whom some churches remember today was a very great thinker who was nevertheless complicit in burning a man for denying the doctrine of the Trinity. All kinds of excuses may be offered but for me at least all Calvin’s teaching is invalidated by this action. Whatever the virtues of his theology if it leads to burning people, I want to reject it. He might have reflected on the Jewish proverb, “‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.”