June 24, 2018

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

Reaping God’s Justice
Luke 16:19-31

Read this article as a Word Document

“Recognizing Justice”

Suppose a brother or sister in Christ comes to you in need of clothes or something to eat. And you say to them, “God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,” but you don’t give them the things they need. If you don’t help them, your words are worthless. It is the same with faith. If it is just faith and nothing more—if it doesn’t do anything—it is dead. James 2:15-17 ERV

I have been blessed to both receive during my time of need and happy to share with others when possible. When I needed help, I dreaded the humiliation of the questions, suggestions, and criticisms that come as a result of asking for help. Why do I need help? Because while I may reside in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the barriers and opposition to me just being able to acquire basic necessities are great.

My education and skill sets cannot help me close the wealth gap of being born black and female in these United States. The wealth gap for me and many like me began when our ancestors were ripped from the continent of Africa and brought here as slaves. The refusal of this country to demand the formation of a reconciliation and reparations council to address the systemic, racial inequities of our nation resulted in perpetual debit and deficit budgets for most people of color. “In 2016, the median wealth for black and Hispanic families was $17,600 and $20,700, respectively, compared with white families’ median wealth of $171,000.”[1]

In this narrative of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus gets right into personal economics and giving. Just beyond the comfort of the rich man’s economic safety existed Lazarus, close in proximity but widely separated due to personal wealth. The sores on this poor man’s body represent the injuries and trauma one experiences when there is just not enough. The man’s sores were obvious, the needs were plain, and yet the rich man could or would not see the needs and the dignity of the poor.

I have been Lazarus and most likely I will be Lazarus again real soon. My lack and need does not come from poor stewardship. Nor am I lazy and unwilling to work. I am simply too often underemployed. My education and willingness to work has not afforded me opportunities, despite graduating at the top of my class in college and seminary. I have applied and applied to several openings within Mennonite Church USA and not yet been hired. Nevertheless, I continue to serve as contributor and volunteer as opportunities arise. I work as often as possible through temporary placement agencies. I receive rejections for permanent positions because employers in corporate and nonprofit sectors fear that I will leave as soon as I am called for a ministry position. Temporary positions come without stability or benefits.

In May, I received financial support from a local Mennonite congregation, for which I am grateful. However, the amount did not match the need, and I continue to decide which prescriptions I can fill and medical appointments with copays I can miss. My groceries come from local food banks. Anxiety denies the ability to rest or dwell in peace. I often wonder if those who are the exception to being black, brown, and poor are the focus of white Christians because it is painfully unpleasant to look right out your door and see people that need justice—economic and racial justice.

  • What is your response and reaction to your neighbors in need?
  • How does the peace church resolve to engage in justice initiatives, resistance, and solutions for the people just on the other side of their gates?

There are many needs, but the structure that built and perpetuates those needs can be dismantled when the followers of Jesus engage in radical justice redistribution endeavors.

  • Can you see my needs?
  • Can you see those in need with compassion?

—Kelly Bates Oglesby, kellyoglesby@gmail.com

© 2018

1. Angela Hanks, Danyelle Solomon, & Christian E. Weller, “Systematic Inequality: How America’s Structural Racism Helped Create the Black-White Wealth Gap.” Center for American Progress, February 21, 2018.

Kelly Bates Oglesby of Indianapolis, Indiana, is our ABS Online writer for Justice in the New Testament, our Summer 2018 study. She is joyfully married to Herman Oglesby. Kelly enjoys writing and teaching. She is discerning opportunities for pastoral ministry.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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