Woe To You?

30 Aug

“My father said there were two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.”  ~ Marlo Thomas

In today’s Gospel, Jesus dished out a heaping helping of woe.  Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees.  Woe to those who were hypocrites.

When I was young, I used to see a double meaning in those passages.  My mind was always looking ahead and playing with words.  I heard Jesus say “woe” to those who were bad; but, I also heard Jesus saying “whoa” as in telling them to stop!  Stop taking advantage of people.  Stop misleading people.  Stop using people.  Stop looking out only for self.

Today’s Gospel and the present situation in the south, particularly Texas, take me back several years ago to a time when I was a pastor in Michigan City.  One winter we had an absolutely horrible lake effect storm.  The city, indeed the entire lakefront community throughout Indiana and Michigan, was paralyzed from the snows that had come down.

What happened?

Immediately, some disreputable business people began to take advantage of the plight of others.  Prices in some of the hotels that were never worth the $40 they would charge for a room went up to well over $300.  Prices tripled or quadrupled at many gas stations.  Many places that could gouge the needy did so.  Of course, all of these business owners would absolutely shout if the same thing had happened to them.

In Texas, we have heard about people who were setting out to rescue stranded people having their boats stolen from them.  We have heard about breaking and entering.  We have heard about many people being taken advantage of.  Adversity, as they say, brings out the best in people and the worst in people.

When things are not going so well for us, just how do we treat others?  That is the true test of anyone’s character.  Jesus reminded the Scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel that they were in the perfect position to teach people and guide them to the Kingdom of God.  They should not use their power or position to take advantage of those who did not know better.

We are called to rise above our baser inclinations this day and to serve, not ourselves, but God.  The best way to do that is by serving others.

FAITH ACTION:  Deal fairly with everyone that you meet today.  Do not take advantage of anyone for any reason whatsoever.