Thought for the Day: Saint Augustine (354-430AD) wrote the following:
Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.
I never want to suggest that charity is a bad thing. There are moments, especially during a crisis, when charity – an immediate and helpful gift – can make all the difference. It can become a bridge to the pre-crisis level. But as Augustine seemed to suggest, charity often becomes confused with justice. Charity has never solved underlying injustice or historic oppression. Right now, as a human race, we must dig through the inequality of the past that remains very much a part of the present. It has been camouflaged and well disguised with all kinds of explanations and excuses. If folk cry injustice, we tend to toss a little money their way in hopes that it will quiet them, but if they continue to make demands, we label them as troublemakers. Digging into the human psyche and the soul of a culture is tough work, and mandates a lot of painstaking honesty followed by confession and repentance. Many will want to say this isn’t the right time, but when a pandemic and an economic crisis have already brought a nation to its knees, why don’t we take this opportunity to humbly listen to God and our sisters and brothers. The death of George Floyd has allowed us all to see the ugliness of systemic racism that will not go away with a little charity. Notice the author of the Psalm, close to 2,700 years ago, suggested that the desolate need a home. This Hebrew word is more than just a bed in a homeless shelter. It describes a family or a support system. And the prisoner isn’t simply released with the clothing on his or her back, but guided toward prosperity. Our Hebrew ancestors knew the difference between charity and justice, yet because justice demands so much more, it is the only path to true transformation.
Prayer: You are the Father of the orphan and the Protector of the widow. Holy God, allow your grace to be the companion that guides us deep into the unconfessed sins of our individual and corporate lives. As the old song reminds us: Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. But Lord, I also request that justice begins with me…as difficult as it might be. Amen.
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