Although I can be preoccupied when I read morning devotional literature, the 123rd Psalm always grabs my attention: “Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contentment of the proud.”
It is so accurate. Scorn seems to be a characteristic of people who are content with their lot in life. Judgmentalism can come along so quickly when we feel entitled to whatever good things are taking place in our lives. We prefer to think other people are as deserving of their lot as we believe ourselves to be.
In a book of essays titled “What Are People For?” Wendell Berry says, “The grace that is the health of creatures can only be held in common. The task of healing is to respect oneself as a creature, no more and no less.”
When the Ten Commandments are given, the Israelites are reminded that they were slaves in Egypt and that God saved them.
Throughout his letters, Paul emphasizes that God’s grace is given to people. It is not their own doing. Second Corinthians 4:7 reads: ”If you only look at us, you might miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us.”
To set ourselves apart as judges of others is just not healthy. At the deepest level, it is less than human. Human, humble, humus derive from earth, that substance from which Adam and all who follow are created. It is not possible to be humble while being scornfully content and proud. I think many of us are paying a great deal of attention to Pope Francism because he seems to be exhibiting genuine humility.
Stepping back to consider how variable everything in life is, it can be even more of a puzzle that we judge others. Life, wealth, health — all is temporary. Yet we can act as though that were not the case.
I’ve been dismayed to learn that in our state, 3,700 high school seniors will not be granted a diploma because they were unable to pass an algebra test. There is a provision for collection of evidence to show the students can do basic math but algebra just gets away from them. Now that I’ve read “Brain Matters,” by John Medina I have a better understanding that damage from stress, neglect, trauma and abuse can cause brains to just not be able to think in the abstract way algebra demands.
“The scorn of those who are at ease, the contentment of the proud” would include people who are able to work algebraic problems without having an understanding that a brain can be damaged to the point of disability. There is a rebuke to any one scornful of others who don’t share their good fortune.
The temptation is there to be contemptuous of others, but we forget who we are when we are contemptuous. For any of us seeking to be servants of Christ or sincere followers of religion, that attitude is not allowed. To deepen in faith, we must understand our humble origins. Knowing that, we do what we can to be servants of Christ.
The Rev. Dorothy Price Knudson is retired from active ministry in the Presbyterian Church, but still preaches regularly at various local churches and Presbyterian churches in the Eastern Oregon Presbytery. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at email@example.com.