The Injustice of Ungratefulness
November 26, 2015 Leave a comment
You’re a leper, one of ten who live quarantined outside the city. You hear of a miracle worker. You leave your colony and head for the crowd.
The crowd seeing you parts quickly, gasping. No one wants to be near you. But you are focused to where Jesus is standing.
Before Jesus you plead for a mercy healing. “Teacher, please.” You are immediately healed. Utterly healed.
You are told “Go, show yourselves to the priests” so that they may examine you before you return to society and its center, the synagogue. You go and are subsequently released back into the world you had once known.
Nine of your healed friends return home for Thanksgiving dinner and to watch a soccer match in their newly restored bodies with their newly restored relationships. But you, you are too excited to eat or to drink or to sleep. You can’t do anything until you say “thank you” to the One who made your flesh whole.
You find Him and throw yourself before the Word made flesh. You pour out your words of thanksgiving at his feet.
You acknowledge your Indebtedness and the Other. You do this, not in kind, but in thought and deed.
“The external act is an expression of an inner assent: the other is acknowledged and confirmed in what is due him” (Josef Pieper, The Four Cardinal Virtues, (emphasis added))
Acknowledging the other and confirming what they have done for you is the justice of Thanksgiving.
The nine lepers who decided to ignore the Other and who calculated no indebtedness committed the injustice of ungratefulness. Their temporal well-being was all that mattered.
Jacob’s gift, perhaps, was in anticipation of the promise of the Abrahamic covenant being fulfilled through his blood line. But, the brothers didn’t care about the reason. Jacob’s gift to Joseph and none for them was for them “inequality.” Their jealousy turned into the injustice of ungratefulness.
Though the older brothers all anticipated some fraction of a vast inheritance they quickly became envious of Joseph, of this material gift and of his spiritual gifts – Joseph could interpret dreams. You could almost taste the bitterness of their words:
“Why did Joseph, that little punk, get that gift from dad? “I never got anything like that from dad. Every day we take care of father’s land and flocks and Joseph is lying about at home or sitting on dad’s knee. “We have to eat sheep jerky and stale bread. Joseph gets fresh bread, kabobs and dates…yaddah, yaddah, yaddah.”
Pop psychology, one of the enablers of the inequality mindset, would say that father Jacob was being unfair and creating inequality. And even though Jacob was disposed to favoring Joseph more than his other sons, Jacob had every right and the prerogative to give whatever he wanted to whomever he pleased. Joseph’s brothers, already harboring expectations of their father and now creating new expectations, created the inequality in their own minds.
Joseph’s brothers should have acknowledged Joseph and their father and rejoiced with them. Instead Joseph was handed over to slave traders by his envious brothers. And…the rest of the story is found in the book of Genesis.
What? Giving thanks for what someone else has received? Isn’t that rewarding injustice? No, it is not. In God’s economy there is justice in the positive acknowledgement of the other receiving something good without making demands of or being acknowledged by the giver in return. It is the world’s zero-sum thinking that always ends in the injustice of ungratefulness.
We live in a time of unprecedented well-being. We profit from new age technology, advanced medicine, online material goods access and massive individual consumption (aka Black Friday). We are overwhelmed by the multitude of choices. And around us there are fewer people living in poverty than ever before. But you wouldn’t know any of this by the constant and ubiquitous griping and whining. Such injustice of ungratefulness, though, usually occurs when the world around the grumbler is flush with good things. Expectations skyrocket during booming times.
“It can be persuasively argued that the postmodern critique of justice, like the postmodern critique of rationality, draws its pathos from the self-stultifying tendency to generate false expectations and then harbor disappointments when they fail to be fulfilled. It places impossible demands on a notion of justice, despairs over them not being met, and then declares all general notions of justice impossible and undesirable.” – Mirosalv Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation
Postmodern “justice” seeks to deconstruct Justice, from blind universal “J” to individual “I” “j’s’ and then re-packages it back into universal “J” form.
“…the liberal notion of justice: all should respect all; none should respect those who do not respect all.” – Mirosalv Volf
Bottom line “Justice”, in essence, has thus become a universal political-speak term for “someone has something that I do not have.” “I demand a debt be created that owes me something!” “I don’t care how. I want it now.”
And so, we arrive at the Sanders Claus List:
“I want world economic justice now because someone in this world has more than I do.”
“I want environmental justice now so I can feel better about the world around me while I’m in my online virtual environment texting and tweeting.”
“I want health justice now because “health insurance must be a right because Europe has health insurance coverage and I don’t.”
I want rights justice now because someone gets to be something I am not.
I want education justice now because those before me have something I do not have – education and money.
I want wage justice now because I should not have to work and merit the money like most plebeians.
I want speech justice because the use of the gift of free speech by the ‘other’ affects my Disney world. And, even though my universal justice says that individual differences are to be accounted for, the ‘other’s’ words do not account for my individual justice and is therefore unjust.”
These days the demand side of life is ever promoted and never the supply side of Thanksgiving. Democratic “Demand” Socialism, whether of the European or Sanders or Clinton variety, is the golden cornucopia that the many have created and now worship in their quest for their self-serving “justice”.
Such an idol breeds contempt for the other and beyond that, the tyranny of materialism and the injustice of ungratefulness.
“Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Then he said to him:
“Rise and go; your faith has saved you.”
Thanks be to God.