Life and Death Choices in the Budget Negotiations
by Rev. Dr. James D. Findlay
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life, so that you and your descendants may live.” Deut 30:19
At the close of the wondrous collection of sermons, exhortations, commandments, and laws that comprise his speeches in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses sums up what he has said for dozens of chapters of Scripture: those who hear him have a choice. Moses urges his audience to choose life, so that they and those who live after them in the land together will continue to live.
Our nation and its leaders also have a clear choice to make in the coming days. Irrespective of which political party or Presidential candidate prevails in elections, our leaders must decide what to do about the Federal budget, the possibility of sequestration and automatic cuts to many government programs, the health of the US and world economies – and thus, in the short term, the quality of our life together as citizens of this country, and as brothers and sisters in God’s global family. We are facing life and death choices in the upcoming budget negotiations.
In these dire days, we in the faith community who are committed to God’s vision of justice and peace issue a call to our representatives and leaders at every level: REMEMBER THE POOR; CONSIDER ALL OF GOD’S PEOPLE; CHOOSE LIFE, for the Earth and for all, as you enter your deliberations, debates, and political calculations.
In this call to our leaders, we speak in a loud voice, admonishing the powerful to listen to the voice of the people, especially those who are numerous and silent, as well as to the voice of God, who loves the least and judges the powerful for how they treat the least. Yet, even as we admonish and speak to others, as Moses admonished and spoke long ago, we must also listen – and choose to whom WE will listen. We know the voices to which many political leaders, especially in our country at this time, have chosen to listen: the voices of money, of image-makers, of propaganda artists, of the apparently-powerful. As people of faith, committed to the God of justice and love, of Exodus and Resurrection, to whom will we listen?
Moses’ challenge is not just for our political leaders. For though we call them to hear God’s voice, and the voice of the voiceless poor and the suffering Earth, we know that some, in the short term, will laugh at us, if they listen at all. Some may burn our letters, as King Jehoiakim burned Jeremiah’s scroll (cf. Jer. 36:24-25). Others may simply ignore our call, since the only calls they answer are from those who bankroll their ever-more-expensive re-election campaigns.
Moses’ challenge, most of all, is for us. We are those who listen to his speeches, and know that God’s claims on us are set forth in Moses’ words. We are the ones who have heard God’s call, and sought to answer, knowing that Moses told us that “justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that YHWH your God is giving you” (Deut. 16:20). We are the ones, most of all, who must continue to choose “life and prosperity, rather than death and adversity” (Deut. 30:15). Whatever our so-called leaders may do in response to God’s call, we know what we MUST do: continue to walk in God’s ways — of service, of sacrifice, of honesty and justice and peace and truth. Now that we are in the land together, as Joshua and the Israelites were after many journeys and delays, we know we must make the choice again every day, and walk with this commitment, whether we rise up or lie down, whether we are at home or away. We will make the choice to do what God’s faithful people have always done, whether they were ruled wisely and justly, or not: “We also will serve YHWH, for YHWH is our God” (Joshua 24:18). May we keep to this faith and commitment, knowing that we are doing all we can for justice, and trusting that God, who is not mocked, will do the rest.
Rev. Dr. James D. Findlay has his doctoral training in Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, but his skills and interests are wide ranging. He has taught college and graduate level courses in the History of Christianity, both Testaments of the Bible, World Religions, Mysticism, and Logic and Critical Thinking, as well as courses in methodology related to the study of Religion. In addition he has led retreats and provided spiritual support for persons and groups of various ages and backgrounds.