Above: The Scapegoat, By William Holman Hunt
Scapegoating and Suffering
The Sunday Closest to October 5
Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
OCTOBER 4, 2015
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Job 1:1; 2:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):
There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.
One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. The LORD said to Satan,
Where have you come from?
Satan answered the LORD,
From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.
The LORD said to Satan,
Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.
Then Satan answered the LORD,
Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.
The LORD said to Satan,
Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.
So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.
Then his wife said to him,
Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.
But he said to her,
You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,
for I have lived with integrity;
I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.
2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;
examine my heart and my mind.
3 For your love is before my eyes;
I have walked faithfully before you.
4 I have not sat with the worthless,
nor do I consort with the deceitful.
5 I have hated the company of evildoers;
I will not sit down with the wicked.
6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,
that I may go in procession round your altar,
7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving
and recounting all your wonderful deeds.
8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell
and the place where your glory abides.
9 Do not sweep me away with sinners,
nor my life with those who thirst for blood,
10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,
and their right hand full of bribes.
11 As for me, I will live with integrity;
redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.
12 My foot stands on level ground;
in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Genesis 2:18-24 (New Revised Standard Version):
The LORD God said,
It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.
So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
This at last is the bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called Woman,
for out of Man this one was taken.
Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Psalm 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 O LORD our Governor,
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
2 Out of the mouths of infants and children,
your majesty is praised above the heavens.
3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries,
to quell the enemy and the avenger.
4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,
5 What is man that you should be mindful of him?
the son of man that you should seek him out?
6 You have made him but little lower than the angels;
you adorn him with glory and honor;
7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands;
you put all things under his feet;
8 All sheep and oxen,
even the wild beasts of the field,
9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.
10 O LORD our Governor,
how exalted is your Name in all the world!
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,
What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you have crowned them with glory and honor,
subjecting all things under their feet.
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,
I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
Mark 10:2-16 (Revised English Bible):
Jesus was asked,
Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?
The question was put to test him. He responded by asking,
What did Moses command you?
Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife by a certificate of dismissal.
Jesus said to them,
It was because of your stubbornness that he made this rule for you. But in the beginning, at the creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.’ It follows that they are no longer two individuals: they are one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.
When they were indoors again, the disciples questioned him about this. He said to them,
Whoever divorces his wife and remarries commits adultery against her; so too, if she divorces her husband and remarries, she commits adultery.
They brought children for him to touch. The disciples rebuked them, but when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them,
Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you: whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.
And he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Proper 22, Year A:
Proper 22, Year B:
Job 1 and 2:
Hebrews 1 and 2:
Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):
Easy answers for the problem of suffering prove inadequate, as the Book of Job demonstrates. Not all suffering flows from one’s sins. And the crucifixion of Jesus provides more refutation of the arguments of Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Elihu. Jesus was the best man (and far more) ever, yet ye suffered greatly. He was, in fact, a scapegoat. Consider John 11:47-50, verses 49 and 50 of which follow. Caiaphas is speaking:
You have no grasp of the situation at all; you do not realize that it is more to your interest that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should be destroyed. (Revised English Bible, 1989)
We still scapegoat people, some of whom are not entirely innocent. In so doing we let guilty people off the hook. And, when we scapegoat the wholly innocent, we cause needless suffering. Sometimes people suffer because of the sins of others. May we, by grace, find forgiveness for the suffering we inflict on others and desist forever from causing harm to others, for, as we read in Romans 13:9-10:
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and other commandments there may be, are all summed up in the one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law. (Revised English Bible, 1989)
I write these words on October 27, 2011. A few years ago, I designated October 27 as the Feast of the Victims of the Salem Witch Trials (https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/feast-of-the-victims-of-the-salem-witch-trials-october-27/), so to write against scapegoating on this day is more appropriate than on some other occasions, not that there is a bad time to condemn that practice.
Published originally in a nearly identical form at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR