Bread – Continue

August 10, 2012


Readings for Friday, August 10 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 9:1-21; Acts 4:13-31; John 2:1-12; Psalms 88, 91, 92

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From our reading in Judges today – “Now Abimelech … went to Shechem…and their [the leaders of Shechem] hearts inclined to follow Abimelech…And they [the leaders of Shechem] gave him seventy pieces of silver … with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. And he went … and killed his brothers …, seventy men, on one stone….Jotham [the one brother who survived the slaughter] … went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them [the leaders of Shechem] …Now, therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with [the seventy brothers who were slain] …as his [their] deeds deserved … and you have risen up against my father’s house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, …if you have acted in good faith and integrity with [my father] and his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech …Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.” Judges 9:1-22

Basically, Abimelech wants to be king, but to do so he has to get rid of an entire family of seventy brothers. He goes to the leaders of Israel (Shechem) and asks them for help. They give him money to pay his hired mercenaries, who then go and kill off the entire family of seventy brothers, except for Jotham who escapes. Jotham goes to the leaders and asks them whether they have acted correctly, in good faith, and with integrity, in killing off his family through hired help. The obvious answer to this is “No,” but rather than repent and acknowledge their sinfulness, the leaders of Israel (Shechem) install Abimelech as their king as if nothing had happened.

Why did these people, these leaders, behave the way they did? In our decision-making in our business, social, and personal lives, why do we behave the same way? One could ask why the Shechem leaders aligned with Abimelech in the first place, but the better question is why did they continue in their sin when it was pointed out to them? Why did they not repent and return when it was obvious they were not acting in good faith, with integrity? Again, why do we continue to do the same thing, even when confronted with the fact that we are not acting in good faith and with integrity?

The answer to these questions are important, because it is a lot easier to never go to a place than it is to return once you have been there. Had the leaders not listened to Abimelech and enabled his treachery with money, they would not have had to confront their evil acts and would not have had to make the decision, do we continue in them or repent and turn back to Godly living.

It seems to me that there are several possible answers to these questions. One is that the leaders were lazy. It is much easier to deal with one king than with a group of seventy people. Another answer is that the leaders could afford to avoid the dirty work (deniability) – all they had to do was to give Abimelech the money to go hire the thugs to kill the seventy people. A third answer is lack of relationship – Abimelech came from the leaders’ family while the seventy came from a different family. We tend to do more cruel things to people we don’t know or who are not “aligned” with us. It is easier to kill them when they are not “our family.” A fourth answer is simple inertia. Once we have made a bad decision, it is easier to let that decision play out than to confront our bad decision, our bad thinking which led to that decision, what we need to do to fix the situation we created, and what we need to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It is easier to continue in sin than to repent, confess, and transform.

Why do we continue in what we do, even though we know it is wrong? Laziness, avoidance of responsibility, lack of relationship with the people harmed, and inertia.

We have sinned, and we often do not act in good faith and with integrity. Without intervention we will continue along the same path, regardless of the voice of the prophets reminding us that it is a path to destruction and death. Which is why we need Jesus Christ.

So, let us ask ourselves today the question which Jotham asked – have we done what we have done in good faith and with integrity? What are we going to do about it? Will we continue or will we repent? Will we have death or life?

The leaders of Shechem ignored the question and continued in their sinfulness. Will you?

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© 2012 GBF

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