05 Mar Be Wise…But Not Anxious
Once a month I meet with a group of women from the church for a study of scripture. This year we are examining the Ten Commandments in depth, and it has been an unexpectedly eye-popping experience.
The Ten Commandments are viewed from a variety of perspectives. Some people see them as religious dogma that has no place in state legislatures, schools, or other public arenas. For other people, they bear the stereotypical baggage of being the “thou shalt nots” and represent all that is wrong about religion, robbing us of fun and trying to control our lives. Other people appreciate the wisdom of the commandments, with or without their religious overtones. After all, avoiding murder, stealing, and adultery seems a fairly common sense approach to promoting peace and prosperity for ourselves and our neighbors.
For people of faith, the commandments act as guardrails, helping us stay on the right path for our own sake as well as the sake of our community. However, as our study group is discovering all over again, the Ten Commandments are no where near as straightforward as they first appear. Embedded within each of these profound words is an implicit, corresponding, positive admonition. This week, for example, we had a lively discussion on the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” Digging even a little below the surface calls our attention to the fact that in addition to avoiding harming our neighbor by not stealing her possessions, we are also called to attend to the welfare of our neighbor, to ensure her well-being and safety.
It just so happened that on the morning of our gathering, I had seen pictures in the newspaper and online of people in huge lines at discount warehouses waiting to stockpile “necessities” in response to the Coronavirus infection. Some of the women in our group shared their own experiences of local grocery and retail chain stores whose shelves are bare of hand sanitizer, toilet paper and soap. Perhaps most alarming were the news reports of a run on respiratory masks to the extent that there is concern that health care professionals will not be adequately supplied.
We are witnessing mob behavior, driven by fear, which is leading people to act without carefully considering the results of their actions. Fear and greed lead people to amass more than they need, to hoard and price gouge, to “look after #1” without concern for anyone else. And it is all a form of stealing from your neighbor which has no place in your life, if you are a person of faith.
Friends, please, do not get sucked into the hype. Be wise but not anxious. Take common sense precautions, just as you do every year during cold and flu season. Take care of yourself and your neighbor. If you have no toilet paper in your house, by all means, purchase some. But give a roll to someone who doesn’t have any. A virus may make us physically sick but losing our compassion and respect for one another—we are doing that emotional damage to ourselves. Sadly, the resulting loss of human dignity will stay with us long after this virus is no longer front page news and we’ve moved on to something else.
Yours for the Kingdom,