By Pastor Jerry Donovan
In Jeremiah 4:11-28 judgment is spoken against Jerusalem. Often in Jeremiah’s day, the people of Israel had their own version of the American Dream and a sense of manifest destiny. They believed two important things about their nation, that God dwelled in the Temple and that God made a covenant with King David and his line would never be broken. It was this belief that God was on their side no matter what that lead to reckless and disastrous foreign policy. The consistent message of Jeremiah and all the prophets is that national security and personal salvation is based on doing justice and living by God’s commands. Their message to a nation is this, “Don’t trust in the sword, in war horses or chariots; but do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.” If you are looking for easy answers, look elsewhere, for there are no easy answers here.
I believe that it’s likely you have been affected by the 2008 financial crisis. A complex web of factors brought it about, but many observers agree that a significant cause was the practice of many banks creating and selling trillions of dollars in mortgage-related securities. Some of these contained uncollectable debt. Timothy Geithner, who served as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 2009-2013, commented, “Most financial crises are caused by a mix of stupidity and greed and recklessness and risk-taking and hope”
Greed, recklessness, and selfishness drew the Judeans in Jeremiah’s time to leave God and God’s ways and pursue false gods instead. Abandoning the covenant to love God and care for neighbors, the people engaged in practices that broke down rather than built up the whole community.
Some chaos followed the bank failures of 2008 affecting many people. Defaults on mortgages increased, and the price of housing sank, leaving many people owing more on their property than they could recover if they sold it. Unemployment and underemployment rose. The recession prompted employment cutbacks at many companies. Even if you didn’t lose your job, there’s a possibility that your hours were cut, or that you lost some benefits. Clearly, those who already lived on the edges of solvency were most affected.
I wonder if we can draw any conclusions today to the ecological and humanitarian crisis we are faced with? War continues over what the land in specific areas of the world produces; coal, oil, water, timber, gold, diamonds. Humanity continues to fight for power and control of that which produces economic gain or satisfies the flesh. It could be argued in some circles that those who do not have product to exploit, do not matter. Humanity continues to live into an economy of scarcity, coveting that which others possess, and thus destroying everything for the sake of greed. This is what the Bible calls idolatry.
The covenant relationship with God and Israel was to live into generosity and hospitality, to be a blessing to the world. This relationship is broken in all of us when we choose our personal gain over generosity and hospitality. Therefore, the church is to be the prophetic voice of covenantal relationship with God, calling for generosity and hospitality and relational wholeness. We should be living into the Kingdom that we pray should come on earth as it is in heaven.
God desires to live in right relationship with his people, and he desires that his people would, in turn, live in right relationship with others. Perhaps they might even lead culture in what it looks like to live in hospitality, generosity, and relational wholeness. That would be heaven on earth.