Last week’s readings included the story from Exodus where God gives instructions about how to eat the ritual meal that would become the Passover. Roast and eat lamb. One should stand, eating quickly.
I wish he had said something about bibs.
God then says he’s going to take the first born child and animal of every Egyptian. It seems a little harsh, right? Couldn’t we just say, “we’re off!” And make a couple threats? No need to keep on killing. But I suppose the story is to illustrate that our God has power and Pharaoh’s doesn’t.
I suspect this story has some economic content. It’s not about revenge; it’s about reparations. Pharaoh thought his wealth was his: he invested, right? He made the money. He just forgot that the property he had, was people. And they did the work. It wasn’t his wealth; it was the wealth created by God’s people, who cared for Egyptian children, plowed their fields and built their pyramids.
It wasn’t revenge, but compensation.
God could have asked for more. After all, the wealth isn’t just His People’s. It’s all his. Everything.
Recently a book revealing how American capitalism grew because of the torture used upon slaves, I think, highlights this point. Our economy has a system where we increase productivity, but we don’t pay people much. Go to a corporation and plenty of the middle managers, the drones, the cogs, working without much help, will recognize the management structure. There’ aren’t any whips, perhaps, just the fear of losing a salary, of being displaced.
But the gospel reminds us that we are fully interdependent. When we think the money’s all ours, watch out. There’s probably someone we aren’t paying.