Tumbling in the Sand
The texts for Sunday, July 17, 2011 are: Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16–19; Psalm 86:11–17; Romans 8:12–25; and Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43
“the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one” – Matthew 13:38b
“For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people” – Wisdom 12:13
Well, that’s an interesting statement. Basically, the author of Wisdom just argued that God is God, that God is the true God, because God cares for all people. Now, other gods, well, they aren’t as great—or are false gods—because, well, they are partial.
Wouldn’t that kind of mean that if we think that God is on our side, as opposed to “their” side (whoever they are), that god might be better spelled with a lower-case “G”? Wouldn’t it be that the god who is on “our side” is not the god the Bible regards as the true God because that would be a partial god, a god who picks and chooses? So, the god who is the true God doesn’t take sides? And a god who is “on our side” is an idol of our own making?
It seems to me that this passage in Wisdom gives an interesting balance to Matthew’s gospel, where people are compared to weeds and wheat and some get tossed in the fire at the end, as though God were partial to some people and not to others (Clearly, the weeds and the wheat have no choice about becoming the other—they are what they are). When I read a parable like the weeds and the wheat, I start to wonder who is wheat and who is weeds … and, of course, I have my ideas. Sometimes, though, when I read that parable I start to wonder if maybe I’m one of the weeds just waiting for judgment at all my misdeeds and then there’s that unquenchable fire…
For me, then, the idea that God cares for all people is really good news because while the true God, the God who is embodied in Jesus, doesn’t take my side, that God doesn’t not take my side either … if that makes any sense. Simply put: I’m included in all people.
But, what about judgment? What about justice? There is certainly evil in the world and judgment and justice seem to be necessary to eventually destroy what is evil so that God’s good creation can live in true justice and peace. I do not doubt the purifying fire of God’s passionate, just, presence. I just wonder if there is anyone who is not a weed, at least in part, and that in the end what is evil and cruel in our lives will be burned away, but what is of God, what God planted there, will stand, like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the very Son of God, in the midst of the fire and not be burned up, but be tried and found true.
What about the Jews being God’s chosen people? Isn’t that taking sides and showing partiality?
Well, in a way. Certainly, the Jews were given a special task and therefore a different kind of blessing, but the point of the Israelites being chosen was not for a blessing unto themselves, but that they would be a blessing to all nations. In Genesis 12: 1-3, God says to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
In a way, God is partial toward the Israelite people, but only in as much that God can bless the world through blessing them (the Israelites also got an awful lot of punishment and wrath when they didn’t do what they were supposed to … I guess with great blessing comes great responsibility).