Vulnerable People … Hello Hump Day friends! Working in New Mexico gives you quite a perspective of our many indigenous peoples. Here we have 64 Pueblos. Yesterday several of them called for more water (for agriculture) which our dam provides. In talking to our manager it is with great pride that the Army Corp of Engineers is set up to release waters to these hard-working ranchers and growers. Yet, there is still such a separation of our indigenous people and we white folk, as well as our Hispanic, African American and Asian populations. Frankly, I don’t get it.
There are vulnerable people all over from every race, creed and religion. The systems we have within our society and culture however, are far from what God has asked us to do in caring for the vulnerable. In fact, many of these systems contribute to injustice and even become generational traditions—a sad story indeed.
My reading the other day was in Genesis 38:6-26, the story of Tamar and her family. In the Hebrew tradition of her day, family was so important for the widows and orphans as neither had any place in society. Sad, isn’t it? And yet we see it still today. Widows in Tamar’s day rarely re-married; most men wanted a virgin and sire their own children. The protection given to widows was the duty of the brother of the deceased husband. He was to marry his widowed sister-in-law. That often did not happen and in Tamar’s case, at probably 15 years old, she was widowed and vulnerable. Basically, her life was over.
In this society Tamar was subjected to cultural injustice at the hands of Judah who lied to her with promises he had no intention of fulfilling. And this is where we see the misuse of POWER and PRIVILEGE. The even sadder part of this story is that Judah’s position meant he could help her–yet he decided to deal with her life in a careless way. He abandoned her, exploited her and violated her because his ire to maintain power was greater than his desire to respect and honor human life. Sadly, this high ranking person claimed his faith in God; obviously, the claim was hollow in his heart and mind.
Injustices abound today, from the lowly to the top and no society is free of them. Worse yet, so many societies know this but do nothing. Often the answer is “it’s always been that way and I can’t do anything about it.” Nonsense—is what I think God says to us. God didn’t create us to live with “systems” that make us comfortable for our color, creed, or status. No, God adopted us as his own children—all of us—and who would think a loving God would say these societal systems are OK? Well, if you are in-tune today you can’t help but see and hear it blaring sadly right through people of faith. If you feel rain-drops plopping on your cheeks it might just be God’s tears.
Our world is filled with “Tamars” and if we are truly people of faith this should bother us deeply and push us to do something about it. We all can help, there are so many ways to reach out to the vulnerable that we are without excuse. And, of course, there is our prayers as well and shame on us if these people are not in our prayers!! I’m going to close with Scriptures from Old and New Testaments (ESV). I think if we want to change injustice today and break down these unholy systems that make folks vulnerable, we have to know these mandates from the Lord and take them to heart and then…DO something!
*James 1:27: Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
*Exodus 22:22: You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.
*1 John 3:17: But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?
*Deuteronomy 24:19: When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
*Psalm 68:5: Father of the fatherless–protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.
*Isaiah 1:17: Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
*Malachi 3:5: Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
*Isaiah 10:1-2: Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
And the compelling words of Jesus from John 14:18: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Let’s not let these words remain on the pages, useless for us and for those in dire need. Think about it—“Who will you come to?”