Return From Financial Sins

Scripture Focus: Job 22.23-30
23 If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored: 
If you remove wickedness far from your tent 
24 and assign your nuggets to the dust, 
your gold of Ophir to the rocks in the ravines, 
25 then the Almighty will be your gold, 
the choicest silver for you. 
26 Surely then you will find delight in the Almighty 
and will lift up your face to God. 
27 You will pray to him, and he will hear you, 
and you will fulfill your vows. 
28 What you decide on will be done, 
and light will shine on your ways. 
29 When people are brought low and you say, ‘Lift them up!’ 
then he will save the downcast. 
30 He will deliver even one who is not innocent, 
who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”

Psalm 32.3-5
3 When I kept silent, 
my bones wasted away 
through my groaning all day long. 
4 For day and night 
your hand was heavy on me; 
my strength was sapped 
as in the heat of summer. 
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you 
and did not cover up my iniquity. 
I said, “I will confess 
my transgressions to the Lord.” 
And you forgave 
the guilt of my sin.

Reflection: Return From Financial Sins
By John Tillman

In 2008 the subprime mortgage crash caused the loss of $30 trillion dollars of wealth. Millions of people were affected, losing homes, jobs, and savings. Some committed suicide in the aftermath. In some ways, we still feel its effects today. Some even fear our economy is heading towards a repeat performance.

Perhaps this is because, for most of those who caused the crisis, the only punishment was the inconvenience of a government bailout or a corporate bankruptcy. Only one person went to prison, serving a thirty month sentence. 

Greed is good,” is still the mantra of our culture. Financial sins have to be outlandish before anyone cares, yet the poor are often sentenced to life in prison for non-violent offenses that harm no one.

One rarely hears sermons on financial sins that approach the passion and zeal of sermons about sex or drugs or pornography…unless one reads the Bible. We may consider them frivolous but when it comes to financial sins, God means business.

Eliphaz accuses Job of a litany of financial sins: taking financial advantage of the poor, leaving widows empty-handed, withholding water and food from the needy, crushing the orphan… 

Eliphaz is wrong about Job committing these sins. However, it is notable that these sins are the ones for which Eliphaz assumes Job is receiving just punishment. His sores, his lost family members, his lost wealth…all because of financial sins.

Eliphaz is right about something. Eliphaz believes Job has sinned greatly but he also believes that anyone can be forgiven. After his false accusations, Eliphaz launches into a beautiful section describing the mercy of God for those who repent.

Most Christians believe that “sin is sin,” but we each probably consider some sins greater than others. We must remember that whether violent offender, venal embezzler, or vain powerbroker, any sinner can turn to God and be forgiven. Our justice system may be unbalanced, but Jesus calls both the corrupt tax collector in the tree and the thief on the cross to be with him where he is. (Luke 19.5; 23.43) Who are we to stand in their way?

May we gently and honestly tell sinners the truth about sin. (Not just the sins we most despise, but all sin.) May we also energetically and enthusiastically tell them the greater truth about forgiveness.

Our bones will waste away if we keep silent, but God will forgive any who approach him in humble confession. (Psalm 32.3-5)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. — Psalm 85.13

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 22 (Listen – 2:54)
Psalm 32 (Listen – 1:34)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 23 (Listen – 1:43), Psalm 33 (Listen – 2:08)
Job 24 (Listen – 2:56), Psalm 34 (Listen – 2:14)

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Read more about Incest, Greed, and Idolatry
Paul would have us as uncomfortable with greed and idolatry as we are with incest and other sexual sins. But are we?

The Prayer From the Cross

Psalm 30.11-12
You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
   Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Reflection: The Prayer From the Cross
By John Tillman

On the day the Church now calls Good Friday, when Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani,” people were confused about what he meant. Some even thought he was crying out to Elijah.

Truthfully, we don’t know exactly what was in Christ’s mind, and we also don’t know that he wasn’t thinking multiple things all at the same time, as most humans do in stressful and painful situations.

The clearest, simplest explanation that I lean toward is that Jesus was intentionally quoting Psalm 22, which appeared in our reading plan on Palm Sunday. Jesus knew that most of his audience would recognize the quote and understand that he was referencing the entire psalm. If I said, “To be or not to be,” many people would recognize that I was referencing Hamlet’s entire monologue and its meaning. People less familiar with Hamlet might be confused. Some might think it was from some other source, such as an Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

So, on this Good Friday, we will join Christ in his suffering, praying excerpts from this psalm prayed on the cross, ending with excerpts from Psalm 30 from our reading for today.

Make these psalms our prayer, today and over Holy Saturday as we await the joy of resurrection morn.

Praying with Christ, from the Cross (Psalm 22):
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
   Why are you so far from saving me,
   so far from my cries of anguish?

All who see me mock me;
   they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
   “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
   since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
   you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
From birth I was cast on you;
   from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

You who fear the Lord, praise him!
  For he has not despised or scorned
   the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
   but has listened to his cry for help.

Future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it!

Weeping may stay for the night,
   but rejoicing comes in the morning.

You turned my wailing into dancing;
   you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?  — Psalm 22.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 23 (Listen – 6:31) 
Psalm 30 (Listen – 2:41)

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 24 (Listen – 2:58) Psalm 31 (Listen – 3:11)
Leviticus 25 (Listen – 7:41) Psalm 32 (Listen – 1:34)

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Read more about Joy in The Way of the Cross :: Throwback Thursday
You will find the joy of the Lord comes as you go on in the way of the Cross. It was one who had nobody all his own on earth who said, “If I am offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice.” (Philippians 2.17)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
It’s easy to think that when Jesus referred to laying his life down for his friends, he was referring to his imminent death on the cross. But stopping there simplifies what Jesus did — and what he said — into one single act.