And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
— Paul Simon (“The Sound of Silence” from Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence)
As Ezekiel continues to relay God’s messages in chapter seven, he repeats some parts for emphasis, and adds new threats. Some of the expressions are so confusing that no one really understands what the original words meant. My favourite is verse 17, “All hands shall grow feeble, / all knees turn to water” (NRSV). Watery knees sounds like our “weak-in-the-knees” expression. The LXX translated it more graphically. It’s not really water we’re talking about!
Aside from all the repetition and confusing phrases, one verse jumped off the page as I read through the chapter:
They shall fling their silver into the streets,
their gold shall be treated as unclean. (v. 19, NRSV)
. . .
It does not matter what era you look at—600 B.C. or 2005 A.D.—money is the bane of God’s children. From the immediate context in Ezekiel, we can infer that the Israelites were trusting in money for their salvation and security.
Nothing has changed. We still place an overwhelming amount of trust in money for our future security. I’m not saying we should neglect the future—wisdom and stewardship are biblical virtues. The problem comes when our wealth becomes the source of our security.
In an ideal world, we would understand that God owns everything. We would make money, and use it to meet our needs and the needs of the rest of the world. In the real world, we fall into the trap of believing that we own what we earn. Commercials repeatedly inform us that we deserve what we have. After all, we’ve worked hard for our money, right?
We Christians follow the latest advertisements like sheep, believing that we deserve everything we have; all the while clinging more and more strongly to our mammon. We get caught up with the greed-mongers (read: prosperity evangelists), who tell us that if we give to them, God will bless us with more. God becomes the middle-man, delivering a massive return-on-investment.
. . .
When the time came for God to judge Israel, their money could not save them. Rich people threw their silver and gold into the street, because there was no food left to buy in the besieged city. The idols that the Israelites made out of their silver and gold—the things that they took pride in—were made unclean by God.
. . .
Oh Lord, Creator and owner of everything, help us to rely on you alone for our security. Give us the courage to fling our silver into the streets, rather than to hoard it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.