February 21 (OS, February 8), 2018: Clean Wednesday; Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates “the General” († 319);Prophet Zechariah, from among the 12 Minor Prophets († c. 520 BC); Holy Hierarch Sabbas II, Archbishop of Serbia († 1271); New Hieromartyrs Priests Symeon, Andrew, Sergius and Peter († 1938); New Hieromartyr Priest Alexander († 1942)
The fact that we are called to cultivate the earth and that we find God in the marketplace doesn’t mean that all the works of our hands are morally correct. Nor does it mean that God is equally visible in all human relationships (economic or otherwise).
Isaiah tells us that the Philistines are a wealthy and powerful people. “Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots.”
And though they are a religious people, they are idolaters. In fact, “their land is filled with idols.”
For all that it imitates right belief, at its core idolatry is self-worship; “they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.”
We are mistaken if we think the humiliation and terror the idolaters feel is inflicted on them by God. It isn’t. It is rather the natural consequence of idolatry. Idolatry is simply joyless.
Worshiping the creature rather than the Creator constricts the heart. Over time, we become increasingly incapable of seeing the goodness and beauty of the creation. As we lose appreciation for creation, we become increasingly afraid of the Creator.
Contrast idolatry with how God responds to the work of His own hands:
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
He doesn’t just call creation “good” but “very good.” God rejoices in His creation!
The idolater, the greedy, and those who pursue power for power’s sake are all always afraid. At least intuitively, they know they have placed their trust in objects that cannot provide the happiness they seek.
Unlike our own age and our contemporary (and often self-appointed) “sages,” there is no contempt for material prosperity in the Old Testament. Nor, as Isaiah makes clear, is there any suggestion that wealth and power are the goals of human life. We are instead to pursue Wisdom.
Wisdom makes it possible for us to live as God would have us live.
Wisdom keeps us safe from the myriad allures of sin delivering us “from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech” and “from the loose woman, .. the adventuress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.”
Wisdom forms our hearts in “righteousness” so we can live with our neighbor in “justice and equity.”
Wisdom allows us to create a society in which we can “keep to the paths of the righteous.”
Wisdom makes us able to see the creation as “very good” and to use the very good things of creation not at the expense of our neighbor but with “integrity.”
Wisdom does all this–and more–because it restores our relationship to God and our neighbor and our use of creation into an event of communion.