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Empty Words and Unkept Promises

Empty Words and Unkept Promises

At the risk of exposing our culture as unjust and materialistic at times, I can’t help but notice how, with a few minor adjustments to names and places, some of Hosea’s words about God’s people and their wealth sound like they could have been written for me and our culture:

“But the more wealth the people got, the more they poured it on the altars of their foreign gods. The richer the harvests they brought in, the more beautiful the statues and idols they built…They spout empty words and make promises they don’t intend to keep. So perverted justice springs up among them like poisonous weeds in a farmer’s field.” (Hosea 10: 1, 4)

Most of us are pretty wealthy and definitely have a tendency to buy more and want more the minute we have enough money to do that. In fact, I would say that much of our economy is built upon that principle and upon our definition of success as equal to money. Our cars, our homes, our clothes and our “toys” get more and more beautiful as we make more and as we consume more. The result: a people with an attitude in which “perverted justice” the norm. The consequences: stunted growth.

I think Hosea’s words here are so clearly about the relationship between words or promises and action or response. How are we acting? How can we be acting when everything in our culture screams empty words and promises? In fact, many of the injustices facing our world and our relationships are probably the result of empty words and unkept promises. I can’t help but notice the crippling effect of this perverted justice; we stop doing anything because our inaction has slowly grown bigger than any action.

In response to the AIDS crisis, Kofi Annan said: “This unprecedented crisis requires an unprecedented response – a response from all of us, whoever and wherever we are. A response that makes humanity live up to its name.”Annan wasn’t advocating for silence or for empty words and unkept promises.

I love this quote because there’s nothing silent about it. None of us are exempt from making a promise to respond. Our response has to be so loud and so full of meaning that we wouldn’t be able to recall hearing anything like it if we tried.

I think there’s something important here, in Hosea’s words and in Annan’s words, about the definition of injustice because it describes to me exactly what justice is not: words without action. Is establishing what justice is not enough to define it?

Until next time,


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