|SEPTEMBER 2010||DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE||
SOCIAL EVILS IN VIEW OF SCRIPTURES
When we try to appraise the social evils of the contemporary society with reference to scriptural elucidation, the first episode which comes to our mind is an anecdote of the meanness and obscurity of a king, contemporary of Jesus, depicted by St. Mathew in Chapter 14 of his gospel. Very faithfully and boldly John the Baptist reproved the King in plain terms as Herod inveigled the wife of his brother Philip. Herodias laid the plot; her implacable revenge thirsted after Johnís blood, which could not be satisfied with nothing less. Daughter of Herodias danced on Herod's birthday and pleased him, so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Having been prompted by her mother, she demanded the head of John the Baptist in a platter. The king commanded it to be given because of his oaths and because of his dinner guests. The severed head of John was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. (St. Mathew 14:1-12) In this episode we perceive a bunch of evils of wickedness, abduction, murder, adultery, incest, besides the misappropriation of deceit for precipitating war to Philip in Herodís own iniquity.
Now social evils are spreading across the contemporary society as contagious chronic diseases. As per comprehensive studies the roots of social evils can be broadly identified as below:
In the Old Testament, from time to time, the prophets heralded and confronted the evils in the society by which the nation was pushing headlong to destruction. The prophets denounced social evils ranging from legislation deemed unfair to the poor, to mistreatment of immigrants, to the "inappropriate relationships" of public officials. When the people broke the commandments of God, the prophets revealed the heart and mind of the Lord and warned them of impending judgment. The biggest consolation of the Old Testament Israelites was that the God was on their side. In order to self confirm this faith, they built the temple and entrenched the God inside. When the human values were broken, the heart of the prophets busted out. In B.C. 626 the prophetic mission commenced.
Prophet Jeremiah warned of the destruction of those who continued to refuse repentance and its initial moderate consequences. He prophesized of the disaster and disintegration of Judaism and the demolition of the temple. The prophet having in Godís name reprimanded the people for their sins, and admonished them of the judgments of God that were coming upon them. They were haughty because of the holy mountain and the temple, as if Godís mercy were so tied to them that they might defy His justice. Contents and scope of the sermon of Jeremiah cautioned them against the self-deceit and exhorted them to truly amend their ways and their deeds, their hearts and thoughts. Do not trust in deceptive words, boasting and taking the pride and confidence on the Temple of Lord repeatedly. If they truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to their own ruin, then they will dwell in the land God gave to their fathers for ever and ever. If they continue to steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices and walk after other gods, then come and stand before the God in the temple, brazening their faces and say 'We are delivered', they are deceiving themselves of no avail. [Jeremiah 7:4-10]
In 589 B.C., the City of Jerusalem was plundered and its temple was burnt down to ashes, and most of its inhabitants were taken into captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah could only witness the scene with tears. The deterioration of the social order of a nation had scattered the people of God.
Amos was a prophet who made lion roar against the social injustice of a derailed nation. He revealed the gross absurdity of the heartlessness of wealthy merchants who ignored the plight of the poor, the lack of justice for the righteous, and the emptiness of religious ritual apart from true faith. They sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals. They pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless and poor; they swallow up the poor with the utmost greediness; turn aside the way of the humble; a man and his father will go in unto the same young woman in order to profane Lord's holy name. [Amos 2:6-7] Amos warned them of their fate; "You have built houses of hewn stone, which you thought would be lasting; but you shall not dwell in them, for your enemies shall burn them down, or possess them for themselves, or take you into captivity. You have planted pleasant vineyards, have contrived how to make them every way agreeable, and have promised yourselves many a pleasant walk in them; but you shall be forced to walk off, and shall never drink wine of them.Ē Woe to them indeed, for those who turn justice into wormwood, cast righteousness down to the earth, builds castles over the injustice and found vaulted dome over the iniquity.
Prophet Habakkuk sadly laments the evils and iniquities of his time which caused many good and just people to bear the burden and hardships of injustice. Transgressions are great of those who distress the righteous and accept bribes and turn aside the poor in the gate. Wine betrays the haughty man, So that he does not stay at home. He enlarges his appetite, and he is like death, never satisfied. [Habakkuk 2:5] Drunkenness is itself a transgression, and is the cause of abundance of transgression. The prophet warns them of the aftermath of their iniquities: Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls.
In the New Testament time, whatever evils prevailed at the time of Lord is seen vividly in our contemporary era also. While in the Genesis Patriarch Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelite for twenty shekels of silver, in the New Testament the righteous man was sold out for thirty pieces of silver. Small and big people equally greed for unjust profit. Many poor Lazarus, covered with sores and licked by the dogs are laid at the gates of rich who are joyously living in their splendor every day. In the midst of the society, many sinful ladies are standing in shame, dejected and insulted. Poor widows with two small copper coins are standing before the churches and the convention halls with their hungry children on their breasts. With weird face and faded beard Nazarenes are standing on the street with contempt and cry, 'I am thirsty'. When the religious fundamentalists and terrorist commit homicide in the name of god, the heritage of the Good Samaritan is being faded away.
One, who turns away their faces from the society, is looking to their own self. Those who found their dreams, lust and self interest, much above God and man are really ruining their own life and the lives of others in the society. Jesus taught us the fate of the foolish rich man who extended his barns to store the grains for himself without looking to the hunger and thirst of his neighbors. Exhortation of Jesus, to sell your possession and give to the poor in order to inherit the heaven, has gone to the deaf manís ear. No man can serve God and mammon together. Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap. The culture of consumerism which equates personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions has caused for the deterioration of human values. The consumer trait which consumes everything, diverge the belly as the God and heaven. When the life is devoted for enjoyment and the body is consumed for pleasure we are at the cost of our neighbors. Our each action is turning ourselves to others.
In a world where the value and sanctity of human life are diminishing, the self-principles are the life commandments of man. The cult of self and conspicuous consumption force us to view the human being as mere a commodity. Individuals who lost to assess the meaning of family life which is the paradise on the earth, venture to petition for divorce as a casual act. The womb of the mother, which is to be paradise for the new life of fetus, turns as the gallows for execution. Advertisements and media create a hyper-real world where fame and popularity appear as the key to securing happiness. In the modern beauty contests the people do not hesitate to make their body, which is the temple of God, for commercial exposition and sale without any cultural sensitivity. In a society of deteriorating human values and ethics, the families which are the schools of values, are breaking away. The families with wrong doings confronts with series of consequences of calamities and distress.
The disintegrated families create a confused brand of youths. Glory of the youth is their strength. But now strengths of the youth are being misused by the miscreants. St. John has written in his first epistle to the youth because they had overcome the evils and knows the Father. Apostle reiterates that the young men are strong and the word of God abides in them. On the contrary, many of our youth fronts of our nation are slipping away to the influence of evils. Youth are being exploited for unlawful and extreme activities and eventually they turn out as anti-social members of the society. The strength of the youthhood should not be enslaved like this.
The biggest evil of our society which ruins self, family and society is alcoholism and drug addiction. St. Paul exhorted to the Ephesians not to be drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to the Corinthians that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God. Hosea reprimanded that the whoredom and wine take away the heart. Proverb tells the wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise. Give strong drink to him who is perishing, And wine to him whose life is bitter. So the alcohol is the way to destruction, not only of the self life but also of the family.
When we engage in the temperance movement we are declaring a war to a legion of maphias. Always government and law make themselves to oppose the movement. We should act not for the drunkards who is mere 15% of the society, but for the non-drinkers which contribute for the 85% of the society. We need to aim not at the habituated drinkers but to the beginners and who drink as a style and fashion.
All Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. All the evils are rooted on the fact that the man is loosing the image of God. We can eradiate evils even to a small extend only with changes at its root. In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose all types of evils and grow up in true spirit of God and uphold the real image of God in which we are created.
[Extract from Devotional Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2010 in the Social Evils Awareness Meeting
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]
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