It is our tendency in our day to see a social justice message in everything in scripture. But are the scriptures to be understood merely as social justice missives from on high?
ʺThus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come receive grain and eat; come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.ʺ (Isaiah 55: 1-3)
It is our tendency in our day to see a social justice message in everything in scripture. But are the scriptures to be understood merely as social justice missives from on high? One can certainly see that there is a dimension of that in them. There ought not be any hungry among us. Those who are kept poor because of unjust political, social, or economic policies, ought to be a challenge to our collective moral consciences. But if that is all that we take away from this message, we will fall short of the full message that God has for us here.
The deeper challenge is to recognize that this passage reveals the stunning reality that God’s love for us is free. He puts no price on it. This passage reveals his invitation to us to return to the covenant, using the image of a banquet. The prophet is telling us that all of the true and good yearnings of our eternal souls can be met without material cost. God, through the prophet Isaiah, is challenging us to ask ourselves a difficult question. If we are always feeling hungry, and thirsty, especially in the spiritual sense, could it be that we are too caught up in heeding the call of the world, rather than heeding the call of God? When we heed the call of God first, all else comes into its proper moral and spiritual balance, and we are no longer hungry or thirsty. You see, it is not just our bodies that the prophet is talking about here on behalf of God, rather, he is talking about our eternal souls.
Yes, justice and mercy, hospitality and compassion are responsibilities we all have toward one another, but these are to be understood as more than just political, or social, or economic matters. They are, more importantly, matters of the soul, which have eternal implications. It is only when the eyes of our souls are focused on the One who provides for all equally out of his love; when the ears of our souls are open to, and heedful of the word of God, that real, effective, and lasting justice can come about in this world. When our souls become heedful of God in all things, there will be no more thirst, there will be no more hunger, everything our souls need will be provided freely by God. This is as true for the individual as it is for society. God’s grace is always present and available to us. It surrounds us at all times. It is like the fresh, cleansing air outside of a house, waiting only for the doors and windows of the house to be opened to let it in. It is our willing and humble desire to love as he loved that opens the doors and windows of our souls and lets in the fresh and strengthening breezes of his grace.
Remember Jesus’ words: ʺCome, you who are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…Whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.ʺ Of course, there is the opposite for those who do not feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, or visit the imprisoned. ʺDepart from me, you accursed…Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.ʺ (Matthew 25: 34-46)
Lord, help us to always set our eyes only on you. Teach us to see others through your eyes. For we are all hungry and thirsty for the food and drink that nourishes us for eternal life. Give us the courage and the grace always, and in all ways, to heed your call to feed the physical and the spiritual hungers of those who are least among us. And let us share freely the wine of your salvation with those who thirst for it, so that one day we may come to experience the fullness of the heavenly banquet that you so freely and generously invite us to. We ask all of this in your name, Jesus. Amen.SKM: below-content placeholder