The Smiths

Monday, November 3, 2014 – Proper 26, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 56, 57, [58] (morning) // 64, 65 (evening)

Ecclesiasticus 38:24-34

Revelation 14:1-13

Luke 12:49-59

Today’s first reading sets up a contrast between “scribes” and skilled laborers: The former have opportunities to grow in wisdom, while the latter are completely consumed by their trades. Take the smith, for example, “sitting by the anvil, intent on his iron work”: “the breath of the fire melts his flesh, and he struggles with the heat of the furnace; the sound of the hammer deafens his ears . . . He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork.” The smith’s work demands his skin, his ears, and his heart; his work consumes his powers of sensation and contemplation.

The scribes, on the other hand, have enough time to grow in wisdom. In fact, the scribe’s wisdom “depends on the opportunity of leisure.” The passage cautions us that “only the one who has little business can become wise.” Work and wisdom seem like two completely opposite ways of life.

My husband and children have the last name Smith, but we sometimes look a lot more scribes. We are fortunate enough to have time to read and reflect. However, it’s easy to get caught up in some of the traps that the passage describes. The tasks of survival and the duties of work can become all-consuming. And even when we do have leisure, we sometimes forget to spend it as the Book of Common Prayer prescribes, “to rebuild our bodies and renew our minds” (p. 825).

My own cultural context is remote from the Biblical context in the sense that we hope for all people, regardless of profession, to have opportunities to grow in wisdom (which primarily meant meditating on and discussing the Scriptures). But all people, regardless of profession or employment status, are at risk of being consumed by our work, and of not using our leisure for growing in wisdom.

Ultimately, the powers that God has given us are not to be utterly spent on keeping an industrial or information-based economy churning. Rather, they are for growing in wisdom. How can we spend our days, whether on the clock or off, living wisely? What’s more, how can we organize our economies so that all people have opportunities for rest, for education, and for growth in their faith? Today, at the start of the traditional work week, let’s remember not to waste our labor or our leisure, but to pursue wisdom and justice whenever we can.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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