Jesus was host for a meal that showed God's love. This meal was also about God's justice. Sometimes we make an unholy separation between God's love and God's justice. The church caring for others is what we often call charity. We are expressing God's love, we say—believing that all we can do is pick up the pieces of broken humanity after the world has had its way.
But the church's life throughout history has also altered economic arrangements. It happened as the early church brought rich and poor together for weekly communion. It happened as religious orders were formed. It happened as a result of the Reformation. It happened in the twentieth century through Jane Addams' settlement houses in Chicago, Dorothy Day's hospitality in New York's Bowery, and through Martin Luther King, Jr. and the bus boycott in Montgomery. People of faith said, “It doesn't have to be this way. There is another way for us to live and work together.”
. . . Economics comes from a word in the Bible. In the Greek the word is oikonomia—the law or management of the household. Economics in the Bible deals with the question, “Will everyone in the household get what it takes to be human and live a full life?” Western economics defines economics in another way—“the art of allocating scarce goods among competing demands” (Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society). Our most basic assumption is that there is. . . not enough to go around. The church is called by the Bible to live and organize its economics out of a different basic assumption—the sure faith that God is willing and is providing whatever is necessary for all.
Scarcity is not the starting point, because in almost all situations of human life scarcity has been caused by human injustice. The starting point of God's economics is the distribution of what is necessary for life in the creation. – Stephen C. Kolderup
In a way that evokes a Eucharistic celebration, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives to the disciples, who then distribute [the loaves and fish] to the crowd. The crowd eats to their satisfaction as the disciples collect twelve baskets of leftovers.
Besides making the connections to Eucharist, there is a lesson here about the abundance of God that overwhelms what we need to be satisfied. – Andrew Keck
Wisdom cries out “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters...” This is the great invitation to feast on the super abundance of mercy from the one who sees beyond all the things we think we know. The Holy One wants to make a covenant with creation. The desire for a promised kinship is given to everyone “who thirsts.” Who is not part of that crowd?
For those who think perhaps they do not thirst, the prophet has a question designed to make all of us consider our priorities: “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” It can be a jolt when we answer this question honestly.
I have a little sign on my refrigerator: What we love to do, we find time to do. It stares at me every day and makes me admit that what I love is often not bread and does not satisfy. Isaiah reminds us about living our lives on a deeper level than we can often manage, but the opportunity and the invitation is always there. – Melinda Quivik
This text from Paul's letter to the Romans is part of a larger section that considers God's election of Israel. Today's text is the introduction expressing Paul's deep confusion and concern for his fellow Israelites. Paul's anguish is so great that in the third verse, he expresses a willingness to trade his own salvation for the sake of “my own people.”
Stunned that the majority of his kinfolk of Israel are unmoved and unconvinced of Jesus as the Messiah. . . it pains him that this particular group of people, who should be closest to the heart of God, instead may be in fact excluded from salvation that comes from believing the Gospel. – Andrew Keck
“Ho, everyone who thirsts! Come!”
Andrew Keck, a deacon in the United Methodist Church, is the Director of Library Services and Institutional Effectiveness at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.
Stephen C. Kolderup is a pastor serving South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church in Florida.
Homily Service 41, no. 3 (2008): 128-137.