When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan. Proverbs 29, verse 2.
Next week officially starts election season here in the US of A. As a political junkie, personally, my stomach is already turning. In years past, I was energized to follow along, render my opinions and debate. Now, I’m just sick of it. I’m betting yours is too because I’m already fairly sick of the constant back and forth, the seemingly endless debates, the polarized nature of the candidates, and the unending pontificating from the elites who tell us what they think we should believe. After all, they know better, right?
And we’re living in good times.
Now, I’m not blind. I know that times are tough, that there are millions of people out of work, many more than the 9% the government claims every week. I’ve traveled all over the country, literally from coast to coast, since this recession/depression began, and I know that times are bad. Prices are rising steadily (again, more government lies), as a relative component of the cost of living gas is more expensive than at any time in history, and our allies are in disarray over the troubles likely ahead just after New Years.
Still, we’re living in good times.
Why do I say this? Here where I live (admittedly, in an area that has weathered the Depression better than most in the nation), stores are still full, you can still buy basic groceries relatively cheaply, and there are fewer houses up for sale than in areas like California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Ohio or Michigan (some of the places I’ve visited this year). Even in those places, you can still buy food, get shelter, and keep your family safe. What’s more, people here live in safety. There are police to keep the streets mostly safe, and the aberrations you hear about crime and socially unsafe conditions are truly aberrations because those things themselves are not the norm. Try living the way you want in North Korea, or Sudan, or Venezuela, or even in some parts of northern Europe now. You’ll think differently.
The verse says that, in good times, people rejoice. We rejoice because the righteous thrive. To be righteous is to acknowledge one’s place before God, to remember that it’s not about me. ‘The righteous’ don’t live with their eyes in the mirror or in the memory books: they live with their eyes looking forward towards God, seeing blessings where challenges exist, seeing life where death should rule. When you live life knowing you’re blessed, you thrive as the righteous.
Well, I know I’m blessed but I don’t always let myself see it. I don’t always feel the righteous are thriving, not when it seems like good is on the ropes. There are perceptions of so many problems in our country, and only some of them are real. Reasonable people can’t chalk all the problems up to only perceptions; there are very real problems facing us with foreign threats, a bankrupt government, and societal norms that have devolved down. As regard the body politic, starting next week, we’ll groan. The silly season will begin in earnest and we’ll be buffeted like a sailboat in a gale. Both sides will paint doom and gloom; fingers will point; voices will be raised; crass opinions will be thrown about; tempers will flare.
That’s just on the morning news shows.
Both sides of the political spectrum will have us trying to believe that the people are groaning because wickedness is either ruling or challenging to rule. There will be truth in the arguments of both sides, and there will be lies mixed in with the truth. If you’re like me, you’ll be sick of it by the time the largely irrelevant polls close in Iowa.
And yet we’re living in good times. And yet the people are groaning. If I were out of a job, I might be groaning too.
But over the weekend I was talking to my mom, who grew up during the last Great Depression, and she talked about how tough times were back then. She talked about how hoboes used to come to the door and ask for food in exchange for meals. She talked about how customers at her father’s feed mill bartered for feed and grain because they didn’t have money to pay. She talked about how storms from the Dakotas blew in roller clouds of dust that left films of black all over everything (even in closed rooms). She talked about how hard it was to buy things, to get things, to want. Living where she did in the family she did, there was always plenty of food, but things were still extremely frugal.
Me, I get irritated if we have to go out to eat for the second time in a week. I get irritated if the cable hangs up, or if I don’t have cell phone coverage, my internet is slow, or my friends haven’t responded quick enough on Facebook. As compared to people who genuinely live in tough times and rough places (in other words, most of humanity), I’m a spoiled child, groaning about things for which I should instead be thankful.
Times are tough and people are groaning; judge what you will to be the cause and what we should do to remedy it. I can’t say that wickedness doesn’t rule the day but neither can I say that those in charge are evil. They aren’t in charge of me. They may be elected and slippery as a snake in oil, but they aren’t in charge of me. The person in charge of me, responsible for me, is me…
…and I’ve been redeemed. THAT makes the rest of it all look pretty small.
In the months to come, when the politicians seem more like poo-throwing monkeys than grown adults, I’ll do good to remember that. Comparing ourselves to the rest of the world, the righteous and unrighteous alike of America are still thriving. I don’t see many people rejoicing about our current state, and if you listen to the media, we’re all groaning. It simply isn’t true. We’re better than that because we’ve been made righteous and blessed. We still need to elect good leaders, people of virtue who will promise more than hope, change and more of the same milquetoast Ivy League hash. And we need to elect people who will understand when there is real groaning and what to do about it instead of just pandering and constant campaigning. But in the long run, it won’t matter much. In the long run and in the long stretch of things, it, and they, won’t matter very much at all.