Genesis and Mark, Part XX: Reform or Revolution?   1 comment


Above:  Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple, by Giotto


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 41:28-57

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 11:20-33


Some Related Posts:

Genesis 41:

Mark 11:


Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


 There is a time to work through the system.  And there is a time to confront it.

The Pharonic system was inherently exploitative, creating artificial scarcity.  It was also an absolute monarchy.  There was no constitution or a concept of civil liberties.  So nobody was preparing to found the Egyptian Civil Liberties Union (ECLU), with its infamous papyrus card-carrying members.  Tyranny was the political system.  Yet Joseph used it to feed many people (domestic and foreign) during a severe and prolonged famine.  (Later in Genesis he also enslaved Egyptians to the Pharoah in exchange for food, and the monarch moved people off what had once been their land.  There was no excuse for that, but I am getting ahead of myself.)  Joseph, at this point (Chapter 41) in Genesis, did something great, concrete, and positive.

The Temple system was also inherently exploitative, requiring poor people to pay money changers so that they (the poor) could buy sacrificial animals with currency not tainted with the Roman claim of imperial divinity, and therefore with idolatry.  And the currency changers turned a nice profit, as did the Temple itself.  So Jesus condemned religious profiteering.  Even worse, the Temple, next door to a Roman fortress which towered over it, was the center of collaboration with the occupying Romans.  The timing was also sensitive, for the Passover was the commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  So the politics added up, including another attempt to entrap Jesus in his own words.  He, of course, was the superior debater.

There is a time to work through the system in place and therefore to accomplish more good than staging a revolution would permit.  I have not doubt that the New Deal would have faced more difficulties and been less effective had President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed for civil rights for African Americans more than he did.  Jim Crow politicians in the South would have erected more barriers than they did.  The lesson is simple:  The perfect must not become the enemy of the good.

Yet there is also a time to confront the system.  The British did have to leave the Indian Subcontinent, for example:  Mohandas Gandhi was correct.  And Apartheid did have to end in the Republic of South Africa, just as Jim Crow had to fall in the United States.  So it is wrong to just a little good when one can do a great deal instead.

May we always know what time it is–time to work through the system and reform it or time to confront it.






Adapted from this post:


One response to “Genesis and Mark, Part XX: Reform or Revolution?

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  1. Pingback: Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary) « LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS

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