It’s funny how I can find out little things that seem to add a whole new sense of coherence, depth – and even urgency – to my understanding of some of the things the New Testament says.
One of the most famous lines from the Bible, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”
Well, I’ve always thought, “Okay, that’s really pretty obvious. You know, I should be careful about loving money cause then I might become greedy, I might become proud, I might become self-absorbed.” As if the entire range of evil spoken of here refers simply to the range of personal vices. But now I’ve begun to think that “all evil” here refers to ALL evil – that is, it is addressing not so much personal vices (although these are certainly included) but rather systemic evil. Read a book like “No Logo” (Naomi Klein) and you start to realize that not only does the love of money produce greedy self-absorbed egos, it is also responsible for genocide, the destruction of ecosystems, slavery, child labor, and pretty much every form of oppression and exploitation whether of people, animals or the natural environment. Suddenly there are concrete social, political and corporate references that make this verse hit home with a magnitude I’ve never really considered before.
The other (famous)passage I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is the verse that speaks of Jesus looking out and the crowd and seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. I’ve tended to interpret that as meaning that the people were sort of lost, sort of confused, sort of helpless (you know, in a cutesy kind of way). Then (and here I am indebted to N.T. Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God”) I realized that that passage is actually a quotation from a prophet in the book of “Kings.” Looking at that passage I realized that “sheep without a shepherd” refers not to people who are sort of lost and confused but to people who are being slaughtered, absolutely massacred. In it makes so much sense in light of my experience. I talk with so many kids at the drop-in, so many adults at the shelter and they’re trapped in a life-style that is killing them – and they don’t need us to tell them it’s killing them, they know, they feel the effects in their heart, mind and body. What they don’t know is how to escape, how to do anything different. Like sheep without a shepherd. Getting slaughtered. Then last winter when I was doing my sign campaign at Union Station I realized that the Bay Street crowd, the big shots in corporate business in downtown Toronto are in a similar situation. One day I held a sign that said, “Are you free?” and so many people stopped and talked to me about how they didn’t think they were. “Maybe I was once upon a time… You know the ball’s rolling and I can’t stop it now…” And they also know they’re trapped, but they don’t know how to do anything different so they keep doing the same thing day in and day out just living for those moments when they escape. Just like the street kids. Sheep without a shepherd. Getting slaughtered. It breaks my heart. Where are the shepherds?
Somewhere along the way the church has gotten off track. It’s become intimately involved with a culture that loves money, it has become just as guilty as anybody else out there, and as a result it can’t prevent the slaughter that ensues. And sometimes it makes me furious but mostly it makes me want to break down and cry.