How could so many churches and so many people who consider themselves to be Christians miss such an important and pervasive vein running throughout the biblical text and the narrative of faith?
I've pondered that question for over 30 years. Concern for the poor is everywhere in scripture. The issues of justice turn up again and again in the story of God's dealings with God's people as reported in the Bible.
Still, the church generally appears to miss the point. Very few congregations make compassion, poverty relief and a commitment to justice a top priority for congregational life or for spiritual formation among members.
I'm constantly surprised by the words of Jesus. By surprised I simply mean that I continue to discover new twists and emphases that somehow escaped me in previous readings and meditations.
The latest I discovered in the well-known "parable of the sower."
You can find the full story at Matthew 13:1-23.
I'm focusing today on that part of the parable that speaks of the seed that fell "among thorns."
In Jesus' story these seeds are choked out by the faster-growing thorns that spring up all around them preventing their growth and fullness of life.
My surprise came when I re-read the interpretation that Jesus provided his closest followers.
I'll let Matthew's account speak for itself:
"The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22).
There it is.
The wealth of the modern church has deceived it almost completely.
The appearance of dedication remains in place. Like a grape vine that is green and leafy, but producing no fruit, so the typical church is filled with people who appear devoted, but when it comes to really pursuing the values of Jesus and the entire biblical tradition relative to the poor and to justice, the greed and the deceitfulness of wealth simply shut things down.
The contemporary church hears little about the poor, and does even less.
How could so many miss the truth so often about such a central dimension of the truth of God?
Jesus supplies the one-word answer: choked.