Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand.
They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away;
they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.
Therefore thus says the Lord: behold, against this family I am devising disaster, from which you cannot remove your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for it will be a time of disaster.
In that day they shall take up a taunt song against you and moan bitterly, and say, “We are utterly ruined; he changes the portion of my people; how he removes it from me! To an apostate he allots our fields.”
Therefore you will have none to cast the line by lot in the assembly of the Lord.
Micah 2:1-5 (ESV)
Micah was a prophet from Moresheth-a rural town in south eastern Judea- who was active from about 737-696 BC. He was a contemporary of Isaiah, Amos and Hosea, and he is considered one of the twelve minor prophets.
When God sent Old Testament prophets, they were sent to warn God’s people that judgment was coming to them. In this season of Lent we are reminded that apart from Jesus we are far removed from God. We are brought back to God through Jesus. His death on the cross paid the price for our sins. In Christ we are set free from a life of sin that leads to death, and are given the gift of forgiveness and eternal life with God.
As a part of our life with God we are called to examine our lives against God’s Law (any questions on what constitutes God’s Law, see Exodus 20:1-17) and to confess our sins. When we pray we ask for forgiveness for our sins, we repent of them every day, and we trust that Jesus forgives us and gives us what we need to live according to our calling as His followers.
The apostle Paul teaches us:
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 1 Corinthians 10:12-14 (ESV)
Micah in particular addressed the corruption of the government and commerce of Judah in his day. Even though we may try to separate what we do and how we act in the left hand kingdom (things having to do with government and commerce) from who we are and what we do in the right hand kingdom (having to do with spiritual and religious things,) our integrity must be established and consistent in both areas. One can’t just be a Christian on Sunday, and then be a scoundrel the rest of the week. Faith and trust in Christ is reflected outward in our actions.
Corrupt business dealings, abuse of governmental power, and squandering public resources are sinful even when those sins take place in the left hand kingdom. Some may think that what he or she does as an employee, or as a representative of government is somehow beyond one’s own personal responsibility. The reality is that our obligation to follow God’s Law does not end when we punch a time clock, join a nation’s military, or take an oath of office.
Befehl ist Befehl (orders are orders,) or the “Nuremberg Defense” can stand in a court of (human) law, but it does not stand up to God’s Law. Even in the left hand kingdom, if “orders” from human employers or governments violate God’s Law, then God’s Law must prevail.
When government causes harm to its citizens by stealing from them, by building up certain individuals with ill-gotten wealth and engaging in graft, that harm is a sin against God. One of the sins that Micah protested against, and prophesied God’s judgment toward was the exploitation of the poor.
Exploitation of the poor through unethical business practices such as usury (lending with exorbitant interest) or price gouging is an affront to God. It is also an affront to God to live in the lap of luxury and to set wealth and power up as idols while ignoring the very things that God has put us here for- to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
When the apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé Timothy, he warned:
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV)
Resources in and of themselves are good gifts from God, but loving the gift more than the Giver is a pernicious form of idolatry to which we all succumb at times. The reality is that left to our own devices we do not love God with our whole hearts, and we do not love our neighbors as ourselves.
The answer to the forces that wish to destroy us – our own sinful flesh, the world and Satan- is always found in Jesus. Our salvation and life come from Him – not through power and resources, and certainly not from taking power and resources from others.
The good news of repentance is clear- God is the Giver and Source of all. There is only death and destruction to be found in trusting in ourselves or scheming dishonest and wicked ways to “get ahead.”
Lord, forgive us when we forget You are the Source and the Giver of all things. Forgive us when we want what other people have, when we take what is not rightfully ours from others, and we fail to be thankful for Your provision for our daily bread. Help us to be thankful all you provide us, as well as for our salvation and life with You forever.