God on Monday
‘I saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the
oppressed – and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors’ (Ecclesiastes 4.1)
Welcome to the twelfth God on Monday reflection on ‘purpose’!
The world teems with good work, good business and good culture. It all reflects the goodness of creation and the God who upholds it. But there is another side to human existence. Theologians often call it the fall. It stems from the plunge into disobedience on the part of humanity’s parents, Adam and Eve. Since then, all work, business and culture has come under the influence of a dark and downward pull.
The Suez Canal parabolizes this reality. Its opening in 1869 stands as a feat of human ingenuity and as one of the most significant events in the history of global commerce. Until that time, trade between Europe and Asia had to follow the long and treacherous route around the horn of Africa. However, the digging of the canal involved forced labour, and control over it has been marred by conflict and violence. Widespread economic chaos and hardship can follow, moreover, in the wake of ‘human error’ that grounds any its massive container ships.
The events of the last week of Jesus’ life are also characterized by oppression, conflict, violence, chaos, hardship and human error. Even the apparently trustworthy treasurer of his discipleship team decides to trade Jesus’ fate for financial gain. The self-centredness of other supposedly purpose-driven disciples is displayed in their denial and desertion when their interests are threatened. Although, in an upper room, they are offered symbols of freedom, they choose to be bound by their fears.
Then, forced to carry the heavy apparatus of his own execution, Jesus takes on the even greater weight and volume of all that is wrong within and around human beings. Like a heavily laden ship, he edges his way to the Place of the Skull. There the darkness of the scene is captured by the words cited above from Ecclesiastes – words that also describe the dark places in the world of work, business and culture. Those places are only there because the good purposes of God have been opposed by the fallen purposes of human beings. As we encounter those places, we will founder unless we are sure what on earth we are here for.
Peter S Heslam, Director of Faith in Business
Read next, because the biblical story does not end in the dark!
The 'gig economy' is not the same as forced labour but it can be exploitative. For a short reflection by Peter Heslam entitled The Parable of the Gig Economy, click here.