Tag Archives: society

Power and Responsibility

Long before Spiderman, Franklind D Rosevelt and Winston Churchill, Voltaire said,

With great power comes great responsibility,

He saw the abuse of power and privilege of those in power, whilst the poor and less privileged suffered.  It disturbed him, and he had to say something.

Similar to Jeremiah…

Jeremiah 23:1-6 (CEV)

A Message of Hope

The Lord said:

23 You leaders of my people are like shepherds that kill and scatter the sheep. You were supposed to take care of my people, but instead you chased them away. So now I’ll really take care of you, and believe me, you will pay for your crimes!

I will bring the rest of my people home from the lands where I have scattered them, and they will grow into a mighty nation. I promise to choose leaders who will care for them like real shepherds. All of my people will be there, and they will never again be frightened.

Someday I will appoint
an honest king
    from the family of David,
a king who will be wise
    and rule with justice.
As long as he is king,
Israel will have peace,
    and Judah will be safe.
The name of this king will be
    “The Lord Gives Justice.”

This passage is called “A Message of Hope”.  To the leaders it is anything but.

They have been given the responsibility of looking after the people, tending them, caring for them, protecting them.  Yet they have done anything but.  Rather than tending those they have responsibility for, they have scattered them.  They have failed in their responsibility, having been more interested in the power.  For that they will have to take responsibility, to be held to account for what they have not done – and what they have done wrongly.  Because God cares about these things.

But for those who have been let down, there is a message of hope.

People may have let you down, particularly the leaders who have responsibility to care for you, but God doesn’t.  He promises a time when you will no longer be frightened.  One day there will be honesty and justice – when God returns to rule.

I can’t help thinking this passage has so much to say to our current society.  Successive leaders in government and elsewhere have let down those they were meant to care for.  They have been more interested in the power than the responsibility.  One only has to watch any interview between politicians, of any party.  All sides have become more concerned by scoring points and hearing the sound of their own voices than offering us any positive solutions – and I speak as someone who has long stood up for the responsibility of using our vote to make a difference.

Meanwhile, many are frightened – for their future, their homes, their health, their life…

We don’t want to hear you shouting, we want to hear a sensible and practical solution, whoever you are.  Dont’ tell us what they’ve done wrong and gloat in it, tell us what you are going to do to make it right.  Or if you don’t know, then ask those who do – AND LISTEN.

Oh, I seem to have become very ranty on here… 🙂 Oh well, I think God was quite cross with these leaders in Jeremiah’s day.  Because God cares about these things.

However, before we become all self-righteous and pointing the finger at ‘them’, what about me?

When have I let people down?  Failed to listen?  Sent people scattering?  Been more interested in any power I have than any responsibility I should show?

Because God is looking at me too…  And God cares about these things.

I love this hymn.  It may feature many times in the next few weeks, because however weary we are of waiting, God promises that he is on his way to sort things out.  It’s one of those hymns that keeps me going.

Thank you Lord
for your promises,
your hope.
That you will return
to sort the world out,
you will restore justice,
take away fear,
bring peace and safety.

Forgive me Lord
the times I have failed
in my responsibilities,
let down those I care for,
scattered those I should hold tight,
and been more interested in power.

I pray
for all those in positions of responsibility.
May they seek to serve,
to care,
to bring justice
and peace,
that all may live lives
free from fear
and despair.
Grant to them wisdom,
integrity
and the strength to serve.

May we all
seek responsibility
and not power.

Hard Work

Warnings against Laziness

My dear friends, in the name of the Lord Jesus, I beg you not to have anything to do with any of your people who loaf around and refuse to obey the instructions we gave you. You surely know that you should follow our example. We didn’t waste our time loafing, and we didn’t accept food from anyone without paying for it. We didn’t want to be a burden to any of you, so night and day we worked as hard as we could.

We had the right not to work, but we wanted to set an example for you. 10 We also gave you the rule that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. 11 Now we learn that some of you just loaf around and won’t do any work, except the work of a busybody. 12 So, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we ask and beg these people to settle down and start working for a living. 13 Dear friends, you must never become tired of doing right.

Ah, you can’t beat a good warning about idleness, and a guilt-trip extraordinary on the good old Protestant Work Ethic, even before the days of Protestants! Work hard an everything will be ok…

“We didn’t waste our time”…

The problem is, that a perfectly sensible suggestion, can be taken and used to mean something it never did.  With an emphasis on hard work, where is the space for being, for listening, for watching and waiting?  What about those who cannot work?  We all need time in our lives for just loafing – not in idleness, but in restoration.

And the author is so proud that they took no food that they hadn’t worked or paid for.  Very noble, but what about the gift of allowing others to give to you?  And there are plenty around today who would advocate the “don’t work, don’t eat” policy (a quick search for data to back up poverty stats sadly soon shows that bias…) – but that is not a helpful one for those who can’t work, or even more for those who do work – and still can’t afford to eat.  The Truth and Lies about Poverty Report reminds us that as far back as 1753, John Wesley was saying,

So wickedly, devilishly false is that common objection, ‘They are poor, only because they are idle

Poor People – The Factual Facts from Applecart on Vimeo.

Right, having said all that, there is another point being made here, if we use the passage in its context and not try to make it say something it was never intended to.  This is written to those who were so convinced of The Second Coming and its imminent arrival, that they weren’t bothering to do anything else.  They were just sitting around waiting.  Too excited to do anything else, and nothing seemed relevant in that context.

So they are being told not to focus so much on God’s coming again, that they stop doing everything else.  There is still a life to be lived and a work to be done whilst they are waiting.

So too with us.  It would be lovely to spend time only in prayer and bible study, watching and waiting for God to come.  But while ever we live in the world, there are things to be done.  A living to be made, people to be helped, the ‘right thing’ to be done.  Being ‘busy about the Lord’s work’ is not an excuse to neglect our community and societal responsibilities.  We are called to live in and respond to the society we live in, we are charged with setting an example – and example of love, care and service.  So yes we need to work hard and not shirk our responsibilities – but in the context of supporting those who also work hard and can’t make ends meet and those who for whatever reason cannot work hard, or for whom just surviving is hard work enough.

Forgive me Lord,
the times I make judgements
about other people’s laziness
without knowing the truth of their lives.
May we
as a society
work together
in support of one another.

Forgive me Lord,
the times I have used
doing your work
as an excuse
to not keep my other responsibilities.
Help me to live faithfully
whilst waiting for you.

Reign in Me