What Will Your Great Grandchildren Say?

girl looking at you
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/rolandslakis/116382077/">Rolands Lakis</a>

Mark 9:33-37

When they arrived in Capernaum, back at the house he asked them, “What were you all arguing about on the way here?” None of them answered, because they’d been arguing about which of them was the most important.

So he called the twelve of them together and said, “Whoever wants to be the most important has to be the least important and serve all the rest.” Then he held a little child in his arms in the midst of their circle and said, “Whoever welcomes a child like this on my behalf welcomes me. If you want to welcome me, you’ve got to embrace not just me, but the whole reason I’m here.”

It’s easy to romanticize childhood and children. So much is made of “childhood innocence.” But, even for those who look back fondly on happy childhood days, it wasn’t always easy. Children are, of all people, the most vulnerable, in part because they are not really considered fully people yet. Not legally, not socially, not developmentally.

For the vast majority of the world’s children, childhood is no picnic. Entirely dependent on the whims of the adults around them, they suffer in disproportional numbers from poverty, hunger, and sickness and all kinds of abuse and neglect. They are in many places around the world, exploited for slave labor and other unspeakable atrocities. Children are, of all people, most in need of protection and welcome. Not just the ones who happen to be behaving well. Not just when we feel like it. All of them. All the time.

Whatever your project is, whatever aims or ambitions or dreams you have, Jesus says that they will stand or fall on how well they serve the children. Not just the abstract idea of children. Real children. The ones you come in contact with every day. If you really want to be great and do great things but you’re not sure if your idea is a very good one, consider what your children, your grandchildren, and your great grandchildren will think of having to live with it. That’s all you really need to know.

Your Choice

desolate land
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/eriwst/2333978870/">Eric Wüstenhagen</a>

Zechariah 7:8-14

God spoke to Zechariah, and said, “Here’s what I say: Don’t take advantage of widows, orphans, foreigners, or poor folk. Don’t conspire to do what you know is wrong.”

But they refused to listen, shrugged their shoulders, and ignored what they heard. They barred the doors of their hearts so they wouldn’t have to hear what the law said, or what God inspired previous truth-tellers to say. So God was totally pissed.

“Just like when I called they wouldn’t respond, so when they called I wouldn’t respond,” God says. “And I blew them away all across the map, to places they’d never heard of.”

The land was left desolate. Nobody lived there and a wonderfully good place was ruined.

You can say that God is totally pissed, or you could call it karma, or you can simply recognize that the both the sustainability and desirability of a place and of a community is dependent on how it treats it’s most vulnerable:

…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

-from Hubert H. Humphrey’s last speech.

 A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.

-Mahatma Ghandi

More recently Jared Diamond wrote a fascinating study, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, in which he connects the collapse of civilizations to mistreatment of the land they inhabit.

It’s not that warning signs are lacking. Whether you interpret them as coming from God or as the natural feedback of the biosphere, it’s the refusal to take corrective action in favor of clinging to short-sighted advantages that leads to ruin.

The flip side, of course, is that by paying attention to the signs, and doing what you know is right, things can also be redeemed from desolation.

You can be part of the problem, or you can be part of the solution. Your choice.