Divine Economics 101

sheep on mountainside
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/jule_berlin/839245545/">Jule Berlin</a>

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Here is what God says:

“I will search for my people. I’ll go looking for them myself. As shepherds go looking for their flocks when they have been scattered among the rest of the sheep, I will go looking for my own. I’ll rescue them from all the places they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will retrieve them from the distant lands and nations and bring them back to their own home. I will feed them on Israel’s highlands, by the rivers and in the settlements. I will feed them in rich pastures, and on high ground I’ll stable them and they will eat their fill. I’ll feed them myself, and make sure they’re rested.”

Here is what God says:

“I will look for the lost, bring the strays back, treat their injuries, and strengthen the weak. But the fat and the strong I will butcher. I’ll do what’s right for my sheep.”

So then, here is what God says to them:

“I will be the judge between the fat sheep and the emaciated sheep. And because you pushed the others around, and abused the weak ones and drove them until they were scattered here, there, and everywhere, I will do what I need to to save the flock from further abuse. I will be the judge between one sheep and another. I will arrange for the flock to have a single shepherd to feed them and tend them: David, who is accountable to me. I will be their God and he will be their ruler. So say I.”

The beloved shepherd and sheep metaphor is a beautiful image until you get to the part about what the whole point of raising sheep is. Butchery. And a few shearings of wool along the way.

That small caveat aside, the wisdom of Ezekiel’s oracle is in the observation that God’s concern is for the health of the flock as a whole, and how individuals within that whole are treated from the divine view is in relation to the health of the community.

The modern view would treat the fat sheep as the prize possessions to be pampered and fattened even more. The weak and injured, and the runts would be treated as failures, holding the flock back, and would be marked for culling out.

But Ezekiel’s logic is exactly the opposite: it’s the fat ones, who hog all the flock’s resources and drive the others out into danger that are the problem, and the rest now need extra care because of them. The easier way to achieve a healthy flock is to send the fat ones to the butcher so that the rest can regain their health in peace.

Or to bring the metaphor back home: Ezekiel is saying trickle-down Reaganomics doesn’t work. There are plenty of resources and wealth, but you have to get rid of the fat cats for people to thrive.