There was a time when wealth, and health, and all manner of good things were considered to be signs of God's favor. By the same token, poverty, ill-health, mental illness, disability and the like were signs of God's disfavor and punishment. Unable to conceive? Crops fail? Family starving? Parent of a disabled child? A veritable sign of your sin, for all the world to see.
But, that was a long time ago, right? We know better than that now. Don't we?
It has become all the rage these days to say that those who are doing well financially are doing so by the sheer dint of effort. They worked hard, did the right things. And those who are poor are slackers. Clearly they didn't work hard, didn't do the right thing. It's as simple as that.
This is nothing but a gussied up version of what was said in the Dark Ages. Except that, in this case, our subjects have put themselves at the center instead of God. I did it, I worked, I studied, I saved, so it is my success, my business, my reward, my hard earned money. And with this comes its darker, shadowy companion--if others are poor, they must have done something wrong.
Years ago I saw a television promo for the Simpsons where someone, possibly Bart or Homer, was saying the Grace before Thanksgiving dinner.
"Dear God, everything that's on this table I put here myself, so thanks for nothing."
The tone and the content of the statement took my breath away. Yes, I'm sure it was meant to be humorous, but to me it was chillingly narrow and mean-spirited. I use it now to ask: when we sit at the table with our families and there is enough to go around, is that a time to be self-righteous?
Does our plenty give us a right to mock and denigrate the want of others? Or should it open a door in our hearts and minds to the awareness of the many blessings which have allowed us to thrive, the absence of which we may never have even considered?
Having had the opportunity for a decent education, the chance to have a job that can make a significant contribution to the family upkeep, having experienced family stability, regular health care, these and many other things have enabled us to "work hard and do the right thing."
Those opportunities should lead to enlightenment -- and a realization that we are called to be a light to others. If we look at our blessings and can only say "I did it all myself, so thanks for nothing" then we have truly remained in the dark.