“Dad, you really hurt my feelings.”
My five-year-old and I had just finished a “discussion” about opening a 700 piece Lego set five minutes before bed. It didn’t end the way he had hoped, so I knew where this was headed.
“Why did I hurt your feelings buddy?”
“You said I couldn’t do my Lego set, and I really wanted to.”
The discussion then centered around this particular question: “Did I hurt your feelings, or did you just not get what you wanted?”
Now for a five-year-old, there is probably not a lot of cognitive difference between having your feelings hurt and not getting what you want. For adults however, this is a significant difference. And this conversation made me think about how often I misinterpret things when I don’t get what I want.
You see there are two kinds of silence. There is the one kind that comes with being a fallen human in a fallen world which causes anger with God and uncertainty. This silence is real and is important to talk about.
But there is another kind of silence.
The other kind of silence is when we aren’t listening because we don’t hear what we want to hear.
There is the silence when our own entitlement and self pre-occupation make us pout because we don’t get what we want.
Sometimes it is beneficial to ask ourselves: Is God being silent? Or am I just not getting what I wanted?
This is the situation of Isaiah.
The Isaiah 58 passage is sometimes tough to listen to because it tells Israel (and us) what we don’t want to hear.
The Israelites had gotten really good and saying the right things, knowing the right doctrines, and going through all the right worship practices. But they were severely lacking in the care for the least of these department.
They assumed because they had prosperity and had the right religion, they were entitled to certain things:
They could look down on (or step on) those who didn’t have as much as they did because they had earned their spot in life.
They could look down on those who did not practice their religion because they had a better way.
God should pay more attention to them because of this prosperity and piety.
So when things don’t go their way, they get a bit whiny: “We are doing all this stuff God why are you not bowing down to my wishes. What about what I want? You really hurt my feelings.”
We notice this distinction in the way all of our texts use the metaphor of light. In Psalms, the righteous person is a light to the dark world around him/her. In Matthew, Christians are called to be a light in the dark world, a benefit and blessing to everyone they come in contact with.
In Isaiah, who is in the dark? Go back and read closely.
The entitled one who ignore the cause of the weak and the needy are the ones in the dark. For the entitled, pious person, taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves is how the pious bring light to the needy. It is how the needy bring light to them.
So it is a good habit to ask: Where is this silence coming from?
Or am I closing myself off to God and others because I am not getting what I believe I deserve? Do I find myself in a dark place because I have folded in on myself and my life pursuit is my own happiness and comfort?
It is a tough question. It is not one I want to ask very often. But I think it is one we need to hear. In a world where entitlement and religious elitism runs rampant, we need people committed to the righteous and just life of Psalm 112.
We need you. We need me. We need to ask tough questions.