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The Resistance Prays

January 28, 2019
By Jo Schonewolf

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Today's Top Story
"Sacklers Directed Efforts to Mislead Public About OxyContin, Court Filing Claims" - via the New York Times. "Members of the Sackler family, which owns the company that makes OxyContin, directed years of efforts to mislead doctors and patients about the dangers of the powerful opioid painkiller, a court filing citing previously undisclosed documents contends....The filing contends that Mr. Sackler, a son of a Purdue Pharma founder, urged that sales representatives advise doctors to prescribe the highest dosage of the powerful opioid painkiller because it was the most profitable. Since OxyContin came on the market in 1996, more than 200,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids, and Purdue Pharma has been the target of numerous lawsuits."
"And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces." - Leviticus 25:10-12
Life Without Jubilees
  • Here’s a bit of "Bible Literacy" for you: In Luke 4 (which appeared in many lectionaries yesterday), Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 and proclaims “the year of the Lord’s favor.” This is understood to refer to the year of the Jubilee, instituted in Leviticus. When the Jubilee came around - the year after seven cycles of sabbath years -  another sabbath year was decreed, where fields went fallow, debts were forgiven, and land was returned to its original owners.
  • This is the Bible’s check on the amassing of wealth. Whether or not it was routinely instituted, in theory the forgiving of debts and the returning of land would have made sure that the prosperity of the land wasn’t kept by a few, but rather spread back out to all. This was the Lord’s way of preventing billionaires.
  • We don’t practice the Jubilee year, and we’re worse off for it. We have billionaires who want to waste their money shooting cars into space. We have billionaires who run for president not because they want to get into public service, but just because they can. Worst of all, we have billionaires who sparked the opioid epidemic because they wanted to make more money.
  • We should be outraged, but the Sacklers’ story came out in the middle of an exhausting and chaotic news cycle. If we’re reading our Bibles, though, following what we find there, and listening to the leading of the Spirit, we will find ourselves supporting a candidate for 2020 who wants to check the power of the wealthy, not bow to it. After all, we have four gospels, twenty-one epistles, and a rich history of prophetic writing that tell us we should care for the poor and hold the rich accountable for their actions.
Gracious God, forgive us for our complicity in the opioid epidemic. Give us strength, courage, and determination to fight for justice and restitution as we hold accountable those who started and who perpetuate this crisis. Embolden our compassion toward those affected by opioid addiction: the families, the communities, and those who are addicted themselves. We name before you those we know who struggle with addiction and ask your blessings on them.

Forgive us, too, for being deaf to your warnings against amassing wealth. Give us boldness in proclaiming the year of your favor and striving to be sure that those who have more than they will ever need or use turn from greed and frivolity and begin to care for those who have more need than they can ever meet.

We pray this in the name of the One who calls us today and always to care for the least of these. Amen.
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