Do not cheat the poor

Ecclesiasticus 4:1-10

1 Corinthians 4:1-10

Matthew 16:13-20

Psalm 148, 149, 150 (Morning)

Psalm 114, 115 (Evening)

Ecclesiasticus 4:1-10:

My child, do not cheat the poor of their living,

and do not keep needy eyes waiting.

Do not grieve the hungry,

or anger one in need.

Do not add to the troubles of the desperate,

or delay giving to the needy.

Do not reject a suppliant in distress,

or turn your face away from the poor.

Do not avert your eye from the needy,

and give no one reason to curse you;

for if in bitterness of soul some should curse you,

their Creator will hear their prayer.

Endear yourself to the congregation;

bow your head low to the great.

Give a hearing to the poor,

and return their greeting politely.

Rescue the oppressed from the oppressor;

and do not be hesitant in giving a verdict.

Be a father to orphans,

and be like a husband to their mother;

you will then be like a son of the Most High,

and he will love you more than does your mother.

The book of Ecclesiasticus is only featured a few times in the Daily Office, but it’s a book worth studying in an election year. Like Proverbs, it’s a cornucopia of wisdom snippets. Unlike Proverbs, scholars believe it’s fundamentally the work of a single author. At the time it was written, traditional Jewish wisdom was not always readily available, given the fact the prevailing culture was Hellenic. Chapter 4, in particular, pulls no punches in stating the fundamental Jewish cultural expectations in caring for the poor.

Not exactly the type of stuff we hear in political commercials, is it?

This reading is a searing indictment that we, too, might be surrounded by a culture far removed from the fundamental truths of our faith. The last batch of election year ads I endured promised a variety of things to me rather than promises to fulfill any of the instructions in our reading.

Perhaps the beauty (and the challenge) of the wisdom imparted in today’s reading lies in the simplicity of the instructions themselves:

“Do not cheat the poor of their living.”

“Do not avert your eye from the needy.”

“Rescue the oppressed from the oppressor.”

These are not complex statements, and they, like this season’s political ads, also come with a promise–but it’s a promise no politician can deliver. It’s the assurance that, if we do these things, we will take on an aspect of the eternal divine union with God. No candidate for public office can promise anything close to that.

What is your greatest challenge when it comes to making these simple statements real in the world? How does today’s prevailing culture dampen the sound of God calling us to fundamentally serve the needy, the oppressed, and the “other?”

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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