What I'm Reading Today: Numbers 24-26
Early in life I learned an important lesson: almost anything in life has the potential to be used for good or bad. It's up to the individual – through his or her set of choice – to decide whether something will be used for "good" or "bad".
The most obvious example of this principle is a knife.
A knife can be used to slice open a loaf of freshly baked bread and spread butter on a piece of bread. That's a good thing. In the hands of another, however, that same knife could be used to maim or kill one of God's creatures. That's a bad thing.
It all depends on how that knife is used.
There's a part of today's reading from Numbers in which this lesson is evident.
In today's passage we hear the story of Phineas. We first hear about Phineas after many of the Israelites have participated in what Eugene Peterson paraphrased as an orgy that was a part of the worship of the god Baal Peor. To make matters worse, once the leaders were confronted about their behavior, one of the Israelites – a man by the name of Zimri – continued to flaunt his behavior in front of the group with a Midianite woman named Cozbi. Phineas was the one in the story who punished Zimri and Cozbi by killing them. Within the context of the story, Phineas was seen as the one who helped call Israel to a sense of faithfulness and fidelity to God.
Fast forward several thousand years to the United States. A white supremacist group that is part of the larger Christian Identity movement (sic!) named itself Phineas Priesthood. Among other things, the group's goal was to put an end to those who participated in interracial relationships through acts of intimidation and violence.
Sadly founders of the group took a piece of our sacred writings that was originally used to teach faithfulness and fidelity and used it to justify acts of violence against those they perceived of as different.
I wish I could say this was the only time our sacred writings were used to justify such offensive behaviors. Sadly it's not. There are thousands of examples where our sacred writings have been used to perpetuate VERY bad things.
All of this reminds me of the importance of checking in with ourselves about how we are using resources in our life. Today, I would invite you to consider if there is some piece of your life that started out as a positive thing – a thing meant to motivate or inspire you to live in right relationship with God and others has become twisted and is now being used as a tool to intimidate or devalue others.
Til next time …