Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God.
He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them—
he remains faithful forever.
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord. (NIV)
Where does your power come from? Does it come from how you fuel your body? Or do you get your zest for life from what you do? Or maybe you get a boost from your relationships; the people around you igniting your spark. Is it ideas and thinking that revs you up? Is problem solving and creativity your bread and butter? Any one of these might be true for an individual, but all of that comes from God.
This is the ‘why’ of justice.
God is the giver of life, praise and thanks be to God. No power comes to us but that it has come from God first. Everything we are and everything we have is a gift from God so none of it is of our own making. It is given to us for a reason. We are to use it to make the world God created complete. It is only complete if everyone can thrive; and that is not just every person, but every part of creation. I’m told there is enough food in the world to feed everyone but that the problem is the distribution. Some have most and some have much too little. That’s not God’s fault. That is human greed. That is human complacency. That is human self-centeredness. We don’t know how many species are on the brink of extinction because of the encroachment of civilization in their biomes. Once again, it is humanity blindly doing what humanity does… intentionally or thoughtlessly, the result is the same. Humans being willful to the detriment of the environment, to the detriment of the vulnerable, to the detriment of the small and weak. This is not God’s design for the world. Each and every human being and all of creation deserves better than that. Each person deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. Each person deserves to have what they need to survive and thrive. Each species likewise deserves to have the place they have been given in the web of life protected so they can function. I believe that is what God expects of us.
God expects us to use the brain, the will, and the creativity we have been given to praise God with and to do the will of God. We are how God ‘upholds the cause of the oppressed.’ We are how God ‘gives food to the hungry.’ We are how the Lord ‘sets prisoners free.’ We are how the Lord cures illnesses and injuries and lifts up those who are burdened. When we live, dedicating ourselves to doing God’s will, we become righteous and a blessing to all, near and far. We are how God sustains the vulnerable and ‘frustrates the ways of the wicked.’
This is hard, because I do not praise God for mosquitos. And yet, there are birds that need them as food. I hate that mosquitos carry malaria, but should all the mosquitos be eradicated so that no more humans would get malaria, the birds who eat them would become endangered. If those birds were gone, the next species would suffer and so on. We would like to eradicate malaria. It would be wonderful if no one died from this dreadful disease. It is true that a cure exists. There are effective anti-malarial drugs. The problem is, it is not available to many of the people who get malaria. Once again, it is a problem of distribution. If we were willing to take the current system of production and distribution for profit out of the picture, a new system could be forged from the ground up that would allow all people access and still fund the manufacturers and distributors adequately, just not lavishly. I am confident it could be done if the people involved had the will. A just system could be developed. But I don’t know how and so I do very little.
In this life it seems like the selfish, the complacent, the greedy, the powerful all seem to feed the system as it is; rigged against the poor. I am convicted as one of the complacent. I live in an area where malaria is non-existent. It is not a problem that stares me in the face every day. I am not a bad person, but not very creative either. I don’t have the first notion how to put a different system into place or what that system might be like. What should I—what could I—do to make a difference? Should I write letters to the drug manufacturers? Maybe. Would they listen to me? Who knows? But I know one thing: If I don’t write, they won’t hear anything. Should I sell all my possessions and go volunteer in a clinic in Haiti or some other place where poverty and malaria go hand in hand? I could, but without any medical training, would I be any use there? Who knows? And that doesn’t seem very practical. Can I support an organization that works to distribute medicines to the people that need it? That would be one place to start. Would they have ideas about how to fix the system? Maybe.
But have I done that? Not enough. I know I could do more than I have.
Do I feel good about that? No. I feel resigned. I don’t think about it all that much. I’m not proud of that either. But I do confess it on Sunday mornings. And because I have found out some of the issues and know that it’s a problem, I pray for the willingness to take the next step. I want to do my part in making the world a better, safer, more just place for all.
This is just one of several problems that our psalm speaks to. If we put our trust in governments to fix the problems of the world, we will die unsatisfied because governments are run by human beings who are self-interested and self-absorbed, the same as every other human institution. Certainly there are some godly people within the government, but they are also trapped in a system with a lot of momentum. It is hard to buck the system.
And so I pray for the oppressed, and pray for those who work within the government, and pray for the willingness to be part of the solutions for the problems of the oppressed. And I cheer for those who are in the trenches. In addition, I dedicate myself to making the world more livable for the people and creatures in it. I pray to be an instrument of God’s good in the world.
Blessings to you,
What vulnerable groups are you particularly aware of? What, if anything, do you do to protect or support them? If you don’t do anything currently, what is one step in the right direction would you be willing to take this week?
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.