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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 05 December 2013

OPPRESSION MAKES A WISE MAN MAD

By Jim Jordal

 "Surely oppression makes a wise man mad" says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 7:7a. The Preacher was probably King Solomon, said to be the wisest (not necessarily most intelligent) human ever to live. If this is true, then perhaps we today might learn something from his sayings.

Although a wealthy and powerful autocrat, Solomon stood adamantly against oppression and injustice in all its forms. It wasn’t simple wealth he was against, but evil ways in which it was gained and the many ways it was used to cruelly enslave, exploit, dominate, and oppress vulnerable people.

In Solomon’s day, oppression could take the extreme form of enslavement and almost complete denial of any semblance of human rights. People were used, abused, and callously discarded when their working life was over. Amid all this God often reminded Israel of their past experience as slaves in Egypt, with the warning not to slip back into such heinous practices within their own society.

Another practice, perhaps less extreme than abject slavery, was oppression through manipulation of credit and debt. Most people were either farmers or small tradesmen, always in need of loans to tide them over lean times. Money manipulators would lend to them at usurious rates of interest, demand collateral, often in the form of needed clothing, and squeeze them socially and legally until the loans were satisfied. In cases of default farms or businesses could be seized, debtors forced into indenture, and even children taken as slaves. No wonder Solomon was troubled.

Truly wise persons became enraged (mad) at such injustice because they perceived the incredible damage done to individuals, families, and entire societies by these abuses. Individuals were crushed, families broken, and entire societies forced into conflict or even revolution as social classes struggled with each other over money artificially made scarce by tyrannical manipulators.

Wise persons back then knew the difference between what is and what ought to be. They knew the delivering and freeing truths of biblical Jubilee principles and how they were discarded by leaders more interested in power and conquest than in justice. They saw first-hand the results of apostasy from God’s will, and were enraged at the needless suffering of God’s people. They knew the difference between what existed under human reason and what could have been under Divine principles of Jubilee. Many of these wise persons became the prophets we read about (but don’t often understand or follow) today.

Modern society seems separated from the counsel of truly wise people. The world of injustice and oppression becomes the "new normal" as justice lies trampled in the streets. If there is any protest it usually takes the relatively harmless form of complaining and then offering charity to lessen suffering. Seldom does protest become reasoned advocacy against the systems causing injustice and suffering. And the people hurt the most often seem to be the most adamant defenders of the systems destroying them. Go figure!

The prophet Isaiah perhaps said it best: "Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (Isaiah 29:14 KJV). Sounds sort of like today, doesn’t it!

Why is wisdom perishing and understanding hidden among our political, economic, and ecclesiastical leaders? Because "my people have forgotten me days without number," as the weeping prophet Jeremiah moaned. America careens from one natural, political, or economic disaster to another, yet even prominent leaders seem clueless about why it is happening.

What you can do is turn back to God in your personal devotions and public posture. You can choose to cease from evil. You can choose to speak out in advocacy for justice. And you can withdraw support from oppressive institutions and public figures.