Peace Between the Haves and Have Nots
This Sunday is the last Sunday in the Season of Peace. The Season of Peace is an attempt of the larger Church to adapt the Church’s spiritual life to the modern world. The Season of Peace is a five-Sunday season that begins on the First Sunday in September that celebrates workers (Labor Day) and ends on the World Communion Sunday on the first Sunday in October. During this year’s season, I focused on the peace we need in relationships between people. This Sunday, we will talk about the need for peace between the “haves” and “have nots” of the world.
The division of the world between the “haves” and “have nots” is best exemplified by the Covid-19 vaccination. Poorer countries such as Tanzania, Niger, Nigeria, and Papua New Guinea have less than 1% of the people who have received vaccines. The rich countries have bought out the vaccines, so the poorer countries do not have access to it. While the “haves” are dying because they refuse the medicine, the poor “have nots” are dying because they can’t get the treatment.
This division is also evident in the growing number of un-housed people, locally and globally. The number of un-housed people in LA is ten times the size of my hometown. In some accounts, it is estimated that 1 out of every 300 people in the U.S. are homeless. The fundamental problem of the division between the haves and have nots is the lack of a shared sense of community. We do not see our neighbors’ problems as our problems.
The Old Testament sets the foundation for new relationships between God’s people with God and with one another through the Ten Commandments. According to the tradition, as is told in Exodus, right after they crossed the Red Sea, Moses comes down from the mountain with two tablets that contained the foundation of a liberating theology to guide their common life that reflects God’s grace.
The focus of the Ten Commandments is for people to live satisfied with their lives and not with rapacious edacity. Paul warned the destructive nature of the desire for more in the New Testament, “Avarice is the root of all evils.” In some translations, avarice is stated as “the love of money.” Six of the Ten Commandments teach that our social relationship with neighbors is to be without inordinate longing or lust for our neighbors’ possessions. To live in freedom is not only about the political environment but is about freeing our souls from covetousness.
When the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years, adults who grew up with the scarcity and oppression of slavery in Egypt died in the desert. Those who entered the Promised Land grew up experiencing God’s sufficiency through the daily Manna from heaven. Each day everybody took as much as they wanted, and they never lacked anything. They grew up with God’s economy of heavenly abundance; there always is enough for everyone in God’s kin-dom.
In contrast to the biblical teachings, the world’s financial system is best described by Michael Milken, the disgraced investment manager of the “junk bonds.” Upon his release from the prison, he embodied the ethos of the phrase “Greed is Good” from the movie Wall Street and became very popular on the speaker circuit for future financiers.
We live in a world where the “haves” live in fear of the “have nots.” The rich fear the poor and are obsessed with keeping the poor away from them. The rich act as if being poor is contagious. In this Sunday’s text, Matthew 25, Jesus teaches that God accepts those who take care of the poor, oppressed and disadvantaged, and rejects those who deny the poor. In a world that hates the poor, the only God’s agent of hope is the faith community that has the courage to live out God’s abundance for all. The responsibility of the post-modernity faith community is to live out the values of our faith, so the truth of the sacred text is manifested in our communal life. Let us be the Church of Jesus.