By: JUBILEE! Minister Rev. Candace Chellew-Hodge
Our ancient Hebrew cousins knew a thing or two about how kindness sometimes felt like cruelty. This was sort of the modus operandi of the Hebrew God, who seemed to favor a quid pro quo system that said, “If you keep the law, I will prosper you. If you don’t keep the law, watch out — you’ll be barren and destitute.”
But, it’s argued in this line of thinking that God is doing you a favor in that punishment because showing you the error of your ways is the best way to get you back on track — back to practicing the love of neighbor and kindness that God requires.
Sadly, even today, we seem to worship this cruel to be kind God, but I would suggest that Moses, in this morning’s reading (Deuteronomy 30:9-14) is offering a corrective reading of that kind of loving, but vengeful, God.
Even today, we see what kind of religion comes from worshiping a cruel to be kind God. It creates a bunch of people who mouth the words about loving each other and being kind, while they live a life of competition and often outright hatred of other human beings who are not exactly like them. This kind of behavior spans the political and religious spectrum. Whether we are on the right or the left of political and religious issues, we each have a god of some sort that demands obedience, or pay the consequences.
Moses says this kind of God — the one who writes laws and commands for us to follow — is no longer needed when we can step outside of the ego that calculates either the cost or the profit of any act of kindness we do, or is done to us. When we enter that higher consciousness, Moses says, we realize that what God truly commands isn’t to be found anywhere outside of us. It’s not even located in heaven.
Instead, Moses says the word is very near to us … so near, in fact, that it is literally part of us. It is in our heart and right on the tip of our tongues, ready to be spoken and acted upon. What is that law? To choose life — a word in Hebrew that means all of the live, growing things around us, but it also means community.
When we choose life, Moses says, kindness — that wellspring of life — will flow from us unbidden and uncorrupted. We will be abundantly prosperous in everything we do. Our ability to choose a life of kindness will make us physically and mentally strong, Moses says, and bring us into unity.
Sadly, this amazing exhortation to hope and kindness has been hijacked by the egoic factions of faith — those prosperity gospel preachers who cynically use this kind of passage to teach people that if they’re kind, they’ll be rich. You can see that it’s worked for some of those hucksters with their shiny white smiles and private jets.
But, don’t be fooled. This is counterfeit kindness and underneath that kindly, smiling feel-good message is a cruel little god who punishes those who don’t toe the line with poverty and depression.
Real kindness is extravagant and is given wastefully whether anyone deserves it or not. Real kindness comes out of true concern for others, not out of concern for what you’ll get in the process. Real kindness means you choose life … and life abundant.