Tuesday, March 9, 2010

With No Apologies to PETA or Wall Street

This morning in my Bible reading -- yes, Day 68 of 2010, and I read my Bible! -- I was reading the account in Luke 8 (I'm counting on you to not calculate just how far behind I am in my Chapter-A-Day routine) of Jesus exorcising demons from a man and sending them into a herd of swine.  The swine launch themselves over a cliff and into the sea, the "herdsmen" flee and the cleansed man is told he may not go with Jesus, but is instructed, instead, to proclaim to everyone his blessing.  Such a simple event, but so much I can walk away with, here.  The thing that stuck with me today is this: the man. 

It seems an obvious point; a man possessed for years, tormented by demons, his body wracked with pain and abused in every way by unspeakably evil inhabitants, is healed!  What joy!  What blessing!  What grace!  The Son of God sees fit to touch this unclean (in more ways than one -- this was Gentile-ville) man and relieve him of his agony.  Can you imagine having no control of your own body for years?  Can you imagine the feelings you'd have for the One who returned to you not only your life, but your body, your thoughts, your smile?!

Thing is, you would not believe the number of scholars -- secular and otherwise -- who would focus their attention on the swine!  I grant you, it is a valid point -- the swine were capital, someone's source of income or sustenance.  "Why would Jesus promote destroying another man's property?" they ask.  "Did He forget the eighth commandment: 'Thou shalt not steal?'"  My rebuttal is simple:

The value of human life over animals, capital, property, whatever.  Christ was a humanist, in the truest, purest, most loving sense of the word.  He was here for humans -- not swine, or fortunes, or even a simple man's simple source of income.  When Christ was tempted in the wilderness He made it quite clear what sustains us; when He cleared the temple and turned over the tables of the money changers, releasing their animals and splintering their cages, His only regard was for the glory of God and the souls of those present.  In Matthew 6:26, Jesus charges us to rely on God for our every need as the birds do, and He promises to provide.

I'm not challenging anyone to sell everything, don camel skins and eat locusts -- I believe God provides riches for some so they can do the Lord's work.  However, Matthew 6:21 tells us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.  If we place too much value on property or things of this world, or things that fade away (Matthew 6:19) our hearts will follow and we will miss the point.  I could make all sorts of suppositions about the owner of the swine -- maybe he needed to be taught a lesson, maybe he had obtained them illegally, maybe he was the salt of the earth and nevertheless, suffered a devastating financial loss, starving to death on Skid Row.  None of the accounts in the Gospels tell us, and we all know that God does things we do not understand.  But, maybe, the owner of the swine got the point; maybe he was struck by the thought that were the tables turned, he would pray a stranger would be willing to sacrifice his income that he might have his smile back.  
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