We hear and read a lot of things about a “fiscal cliff” in the news of the day. Whether the term conjures more or less fear than is actually warranted is at least partially dependent one’s own economic condition and political persuasion. Much of the rhetoric revolves are the concept of justice—what it means, how it should be served, and whose responsibility it is to bring it to pass.
One indisputable biblical truth is that God is concerned with justice, including economic justice. A text from Isaiah will be part of the readings for the next three days (12:2-6); in addition to this, a scathing passage from another prophet (Amos 6:1-8) leaves no doubt that God’s concern for justice is to be shared by His people, who are held accountable for seeing that it happens. Then 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 extends the concern for justice to meeting the needs of hurting brothers and sisters in Christ. In the latter passage we read that we should give to legitimate needs, but are under no obligation to give so that others become wealthy while impoverishing ourselves—one should give only give what one can afford.
Of the coming One, Isaiah declares that “the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” We look for such priceless commodities in so many other places when we are faced with challenging and perplexing problems. We look to financial advisors, economic experts, market analysts; we look to advocates of one or another cause; we look to legislative and executive leadership backed up by a judicial system intended to keep the others from doing anything that is deemed unjust. To say we are not always satisfied with the conclusions is to understate the obvious point that justice has not been the consistent result of our supposed wisdom and understanding.
To raise such an issue at Advent may at first seem a bit odd. But when we turn our thoughts toward the Christ who is coming, we should also think of His nature and character, His interests and concerns, His desires and expectations. Expectations? Wait, isn’t it we who are asking the long-expected Jesus to come? Are we not the ones with the expectations surrounding His coming? What could it mean to have something expected of us? We need the rescuing, after all.
Yet God’s expectations that His people would bear His stamp, share in His purposes, and work toward His vision of the good of mankind is repeated so very often. Hence His displeasure expressed through Amos. He calls out those who bask in luxury while watching others in need—and He doesn’t seem to be primarily concerned with the reasons for the poverty. What seems disturbing to Him is that the poverty is far outweighed by the desire for continual, ever more absurd consumption by those who have made wealth their god.
I don’t have the answer to the fiscal cliff (which is okay because no one has asked). I do know that wisdom and understanding are needed, and that they won’t appear until there is a fear of the Lord evident in the asking. And whether it is this or an other confounding issue in our world, we should be reminded during Advent that only Christ can unlock the understanding we need to truly resolve our crises. May He come to us and abide with us.