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Image by Milad Fakurian
  • Writer's pictureFirst Christian Church of Chicago

I want! I Want! I Want!

My grandson's first favorite show has been a YouTube series, "Ms. Rachel Teaches". Ms. Rachel is a preschool teacher turned YouTube content creator. In a few of her first words for toddler videos she teaches a phrase that is most natural to toddlers. You almost wonder why it needs to be taught to them because it comes so naturally ... "I want".

"I want" doesn't come naturally only to toddlers. It hits at the heart of most of us. You could say the American economic model is built upon a model of convincing Americans they want things they don't need.

Isaiah 5:8-10 begins to speak to our heart for more and more ... I want, I want, I want.

Before we get to that let me clear up one possible misconception that may arise in Isaiah. We may commonly misunderstand the word "woe". For years I've heard these kinds of texts shouted in angry voices of judgment. However, they are better understood as cries of mourning. We ought to read "woe" passages as God speaking from a broken heart with tears of sadness running down his face.

So what is this thing that is breaking his heart? It seems innocuous enough ... someone buying up property. It happens all the time. However, we need to know something of the cultural background to understand why land acquisition would make God sad.

Let's consider an economic certainty: property ownership is the greatest security against perpetual poverty. That is why God built into the Torah a tool to ensure that cycles of perpetual poverty would be broken by land being returned to the previous owners every 50 years. If a family experienced financial hardship and had to sell their land to pay off their debts, the Year of Jubilee promised the lands return. However, there appears to be no record that Jubilee was ever observed.

Those who acquired land to land are thus speaking of the greedy who in their greed to acquire more and more sentence others to perpetual poverty. This accusations speaks of greed as a lack of concern for justice and compassion. Greed is self-centered.

"I want, I want, I want."

Greed that disregards the needs of the poor and oppressed makes God sad. When my desire for more harms others by denying them basic needs God cries. When I shrug off that others are unable to live, eat, work to provide for themselves and their families because caring for them might inconvenience me and my potential wealth, God mourns.

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