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ECONOMIC JUSTICE IN THE LORD'S PRAYER PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Wednesday, 22 November 2006

ECONOMIC JUSTICE IN THE LORD'S PRAYER

By Jim Jordal

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer, Matthew 6:9-13 (King James)

Many churches use the well-known Lord's Prayer as an integral part of weekly worship. Most Christians can repeat it verbally due to oft repetition of its words. But how many of us actually ponder what we pray for as we utter this prayer? Are the words merely ritual and tradition, or do they have meaning reaching to the very foundations of our faith and the depths of our spirits?

This prayer reflects the very essence of the life and mission of Jesus and reveals clearly our relationship to His person, His people, and His ministry. Simply put, we are to desire, pray for, and act on the same things He desired, prayed for, and acted to bring about.

Jesus continually advocated and acted to bring the presence and principles of the kingdom of God to this earth and its people. His well-known Beatitudes promise among other things comfort for those who mourn, mercy for the merciful, and literal possession of His earthly kingdom for those who are poor in spirit, meek, and who are persecuted for righteousness' sake. And Jesus speaks, not of some distant heavenly sphere, but of His kingdom soon to come upon earth.

The associations of Jesus reveal His solidarity with the masses of poor, marginalized, and disenfranchised people of the day. His continued contacts with such lowly people brought about criticism and open attack by the entrenched powers of religious orthodoxy and economic privilege, and led eventually to His death. For the rich and powerful Jesus had only one message: repent and cease your wicked, oppressive ways.

The miracles of Jesus continue His purpose of deliverance for common people from sickness, physical infirmity, bondage, oppression, and other human sufferings. Most of His miracles occurred in situations perceived by the religious (and economic) power structure as threatening to their continued welfare, and so were often ridiculed or strenuously opposed by them.

And many of the parables taught by Jesus reveal mysteries and organizational and behavioral principles of His coming earthly kingdom. He taught of things economic, political, social--all of which descended from the original intent of God as found in the Mosaic Law and the Sabbath/Jubilee principles of Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15. These are not esoteric pie-in-the-sky precepts, but living, dynamic principles of deliverance from the injustice and oppression perpetrated when human institutions fail to follow God's will.

If Jesus came to provide human salvation, then this salvation must certainly be related to what He taught us to pray for. The deliverance and salvation sought in the Lord's Prayer is found and perfected, not in isolation, but in community. This contrasts greatly with the "me and God" philosophy of individualism so prevalent today.

You might correctly conclude from what I say that I think salvation encompasses much more than escape for a small fraction of believing humanity from the eternal fires of hell. I think that salvation as purchased by the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary includes not only personal transformation in the born-again experience of faith, but also deliverance in Christ's kingdom from such institutional oppressions as hunger, poverty, overwhelming debt, homelessness, lack of medical care, ecological destruction, and the host of other human ills arising from destructive world systems and human practices in opposition to the law and will of God.

It seems to me that the Lord's Prayer reveals God's will for all of this, since it is an accurate indication of what God thinks important enough for us to pray for. This prayer also has the ability to align us with His will for this earth. It's not about heaven: It's about earth! It draws our attention toward what happens here and now, and what should be our role in these events.

One last word of caution: don't overly spiritualize the Lord's Prayer or any other teachings of Jesus. It's too often our practice to minimize and mystify clear pronouncements of Scripture by saying they apply only in the future at some other place. I'm not going into it deeply now, but this is what seems to have happened to the word "debt" in the Lord's Prayer. Possibly because translators a century ago perceived "debt" to be an irrelevant translation of the Greek term opheilema (something owed, such as a financial debt or moral due), it now appears as "trespasses," or "sins." Thus, an important economic component of this prayer is lost.

But whatever your view, please meditate on what you are praying for next time your repeat the Lord's Prayer. It's a powerful part of worship, and deserves more than cursory treatment.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 22 November 2006 )