Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
Golden calves and American idols
Rev. Ginna Bairby
1 Kings 12:21–33
So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”
Reflection: You’d think King Jeroboam would at least have read the book.
Today’s Scripture passage tells the story of how Israel divided into Northern and Southern kingdoms. Fearing that his subjects might defect to the South if they traveled to Jerusalem to worship, King Jeroboam of the North sets up two altars in his territory: one at Bethel and one at Dan.
And what did Jeroboam erect at these altars? Two golden calves. Clearly, he missed that lesson from the book of Exodus! Then again, some idols die hard.
Israel had its golden calves; America has its money. We want it, and we dedicate our lives to chasing after it. Money captivates the American imagination like nothing else. We bow down at the altar of neoliberal capitalism and the free market, and no one dares to ask questions.
But the golden calf did not bring the people of Israel out of Egypt, and neither can money save us — it never has, and it never will. Instead, our idolatrous pursuit of wealth traps many of our neighbors — and many of us! — in cycles of poverty. This week, we’ll talk openly about money. It’s time to expose the golden calf for what it really is.
Action: Have a frank conversation with a friend or family member today about money. Notice what feelings come up. Sit with any discomfort or embarrassment that the conversation brings.
Prayer: God of abundance, teach us to be satisfied with enough. Turn our hearts away from the golden calves and idols we set up and back toward you and our neighbors. Free us from our mindset of scarcity, and free us to practice radical generosity. Amen.
Rev. Bairby is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Taos, NM. She has worked in the PC(USA)’s Compassion Peace and Justice ministries and served as a Young Adult Volunteer in Peru 2009-2010. She holds an MDiv from Union Presbyterian Seminary.
This year’s A Season of Peace Resources are designed to help Presbyterians explore different forms and lenses for peacemaking. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Through the 29 days of this year’s Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
- What does it mean to commit to Peace?
- Making peace by addressing root causes of poverty
- Making peace by disrupting systematic racism
- Making peace by ending violence
- Making peace by supporting refugees and migrants
- Partaking in peace in worship and at table this World Communion Sunday and through the Peace & Global Witness Offering
Each author represents a variety of vocations and experiences in peacemaking efforts. Individuals and households are invited to make use of these daily reflections beginning on Sunday, September 1, and concluding on World Communion Sunday, October 6.