How many times have I deflected the blame that was clearly mine? How many times have I been quick to judge others and point fingers? I’m the mother of an 8-year-old son and often find myself in the position to discern the origin of a fight between him and his friends – when I arrive on the scene, the boys are ready with their own fingers to show who is at fault.
Today’s reading from Isaiah 58:9b-14 is a message from the prophet to people who are like me – educated, privileged, and influential. And they’re pointing fingers, blaming and most likely shaming the laborers who are just doing their job. And God has noticed. Their behavior toward people in need is pretty shabby, too. While they’re throwing parties, celebrating being home from exile, their neighbors are starving in the streets. And in the midst of the parties, they have time to complain about their neighbors’ progress in rebuilding the Temple.
To address this self-centered behavior, the prophet shares God’s vision for life together. No more finger pointing. No more speaking evil about the laborers.
And then the prophet lays down this seemingly simple directive: offer your food to the hungry. But the Hebrew word commonly translated as “food” means much more than that (so I’ve heard from Hebrew scholars.) “Nephesh” means “your whole being.” That’s much bigger than just bringing a few cans of food to the food bank for people who are hungry. That means getting to know them. Letting them get to know me. Offering understanding and acceptance. Welcoming them into community. Helping them achieve and learn and grow. Learning from them what they have to teach me. Speaking for them when my voice travels farther because of my privilege. And making room for them at the table, so that their voices can be heard.
That’s the vision. And that’s the call. And that’s really what I hope my life can be about. When I get caught up in petty rivalries – when I get distracted by insignificant details – when I get bogged down in paperwork – when I get discouraged by other people’s opinions of me – this vision is where I return. This vision of people knowing deep down their value to God. This vision of people working side-by-side. This vision of everyone having what they need. This is the real stuff of life.
So today, I lift up the vision, for myself and for others. Let’s be about something bigger. Let’s be about God’s vision.