Listen therefore, O kings, and understand;
learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.
Give ear, you that rule over multitudes,
and boast of many nations.
For your dominion was given you from the Lord,
and your sovereignty from the Most High;
he will search out your works and inquire into your plans.
Because as servants of his kingdom you did not rule rightly,
or keep the law,
or walk according to the purpose of God,
he will come upon you terribly and swiftly,
because severe judgment falls on those in high places.
For the lowliest may be pardoned in mercy,
but the mighty will be mightily tested.
For the Lord of all will not stand in awe of anyone,
or show deference to greatness;
because he himself made both small and great,
and he takes thought for all alike.
But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty.
To you then, O monarchs, my words are directed,
so that you may learn wisdom and not transgress.
For they will be made holy who observe holy things in holiness,
and those who have been taught them will find a defense.
Therefore set your desire on my words;
long for them, and you will be instructed.
Psalm 82:3-4, 6-7
Give justice to the weak and the orphan;
maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
I say, “You are gods,
children of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, you shall die like mortals,
and fall like any prince.”
On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”
Our readings today from the book of Wisdom and from the book of Luke could hardly address more opposite people. In our reading from Wisdom, Solomon addresses his words to monarchs. These are the mighty, the few highly privileged elite, who have great wealth and power and rule over nations. But our reading from Luke is concerned instead with lepers. These are at the absolute bottom of the social order, the outcast and unclean, who are impoverished and do not even have power over their own lives or bodies.
Most of us probably fall somewhere between these two extremes. We are no rulers but we have some accomplishments, some means, some autonomy and control in our own lives. And we are no lepers, but we also have things that are beyond our control, limits to what we can achieve for ourselves, and maybe physical, mental, or emotional difficulties that we cannot control. So what does God have to say to us, whatever our state of privilege or lack?
To the mighty and privileged, Solomon in his wisdom recommends humility before God, longing for instruction, and love of God’s laws and a desire for holiness. When we have privilege and giftings from God, these are not for building our own kingdom, maintaining our own advantages, and coming out ahead. Rather, they are responsibilities with which we have been entrusted, as servants of God’s kingdom to exercise our powers well and wisely, and according to God’s purposes.
To the poor, sick, and under-privileged, Jesus recommends faith and gratitude. Jesus tells the Samaritan healed of leprosy that his faith has made him well. Jesus also marvels that only this one returned to show gratitude. It’s hard to make excuses for the other nine, but we might try to imagine why they never returned to give thanks. Were they doubtful that they were really healed? Were they so eager to get their lives back that they forgot? Were they unsure of what to say? Were they still struggling with the trauma of this illness having happened to them, so that they were not able to be grateful to be free? While faith and gratitude can be hard to muster in the midst of hard times and seemingly hopeless situations, they are indeed our saving grace.
Who do I identify with in the readings today? Like the monarchs, do I have plenty of resources and autonomy in my life? Am I using what I have for God’s purposes or my own? How can I grow in humility, desire for instruction and wisdom, and love of God and His ways? Like the lepers, am I suffering with sickness, trauma, being marginalized, or other circumstances beyond my control and that may seem hopeless? Do I believe that Jesus sees and is able to bring life and unforeseen blessings out of whatever I am going through? Do I remember to be grateful for the blessings I have received and for the big or small victories that keep me going? How can I grow my faith and practice gratitude more?
Today, let’s take our privileges on one hand and our sufferings on the other and offer them up to Jesus with humility and gratitude. Let’s ask Him to increase our love for Him, to use our gifts and privileges for His glory, and in our sufferings not to lose heart but to gain faith.