“I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11
The received truth in our society is that the strong must prevail over the weak, and the rich must prevail over the poor. Only a fool would deny it. There is an old joke about our text: the race may not go to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that is definitely the way to bet!
And yet, and yet! When you read the strange story of the Bible there seems to be another kind of truth. “The first shall be last and the last first.” “The lion shall dwell with the lamb.” The shepherd boy, David, slays the giant, Goliath.
And in her canticle Mary says (or perhaps sings):
God has shown the strength of his arm,
God has scattered the proud in their conceit.
God has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
Can we imagine such a world? A world without income inequality? Without racial bias? A world where might doesn’t make right? Where the meek really inherit the earth? Where the richest can’t buy elections? Where the powerful don’t call all the shots?
It astonishes me that the Bible is so often employed to defend the status quo. Because if you pay attention to its topsy-turvy story, it is more often than not a challenge to prevailing norms and received assumptions about the way things are and must be.
It is worth reminding ourselves from time to time that the one we follow and worship, whose realm and reign we pray for, came in humility and died on a cross in a state execution.
Don’t let us fall for it, God. The world we see doesn’t have to be like this.