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Written by Jim Jordal   
Friday, 13 July 2007

WHEN ECONOMIC INJUSTICE LEADS TO DISASTER

By Jim Jordal

Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah saying, "Thus has the Lord of hosts said, 'Dispense true justice, and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.' But they refused to pay attention, and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. And they made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. And it came about that just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen," says the Lord of hosts.

Zechariah 7:8-13 (NASB)

The prophet Zechariah uttered the above recounting five centuries before Christ as his people, recently returned from Babylonian captivity, struggled to gather motivation to complete the temple in Jerusalem. Work on the temple had come to a halt because of charges by opponents that the Jews were conspiring against their "mentor" Persian king Darius. Perceiving the difficulties, Zechariah undertook to restore momentum by reminding the people why they had fallen into captivity in the first place. His words recount the sins--largely economic in nature--that drew God's anger: injustice; lack of compassion and kindness toward the poor; oppression of widows, orphans, strangers, the poor; and the odious practice of devising financial manipulations against one another.

The operative principle in this account is that for God's people there was a connection between obedience to His word and the health of their society. Economic, political, social, and military success depended upon following God's law.

A similar account in Joshua 7 details God's response to the sin of Achan. Following the arrival in the land of Canaan, Joshua sent a military force against the Amorite city of Ai. In the ensuring battle, Israel lost 36 warriors. That relatively small loss was sufficient to send Joshua to his knees inquiring of the Lord why this disaster had occurred. God's reply was that in the previous conquest of Jericho Israel had transgressed His command that the spoils of the city be burned and the precious metals consecrated to God. All Israel, except for Achan and his household, obeyed this command. Yet Achan's sin was sufficient to bring Divine wrath upon the nation. Again, the connection between obedience and national health appears.

But does the historic relationship between sin and national welfare still hold true today, or has it been superseded by grace? The prophet Hosea didn't think so when he spoke God's word to His people: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, That you may be no priest to me. Because you have forgotten your God's law, I will also forget your children" (Hosea 4:6, WEB). But too many modern religious scholars seem to think that God's law for the nation is now abrogated by grace. That's because they make a serious mistake in failing to distinguish between God's law for the nation and the commands of Christ relative to personal relationships and community living. They thus discount the relationship between sin and national welfare.

The national sins of Israel in the past generally involved idolatry and economic oppression made into law by civil authorities and tolerated or excused by religious leaders. God's anger at such sin has never changed, and He still exacts judgment--although not always immediate--upon those nations practicing such evil. So it's at least a little hypocritical to pray for God's blessing upon our nation when we practice economic aggression on an unprecedented scale against most of the world, and at home the rampant idolatries of pleasure, wealth, and possessions to the exclusion of God.

The words of Zechariah (above) have new meaning today as captive peoples the world over struggle against global systems of economic domination and oppression. Largely Western in origin, these domination systems initiated and supported by Christian nations stand between us and full favor with God. If our Christian profession is to mean anything, then we must act as Christians and their nations are supposed to act--as custodians, not destroyers of the earth, as shepherds and not dominators of the people, and as sharers rather than takers of the earth's resources.

Is there a relationship between our nation's sin and the malaise that grips us today? Scripture says so, and it seems to me it's time to listen to what God says rather than to what self-serving politicians and pundits say.