"So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites" (Exodus 3:8; cf. 3:17; 13:5).
"Land of milk and honey . . . Bloody lot of good it does if you can’t handle lactose and you’ve got diabetes to boot."
The book’s character was referring to the biblical concept of a Land of milk and honey, an Exodus reference about the Land of Promise, the Land of Gift, as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exod 3:3, et al.). This land was the promise made to the Israelite slaves, captive and abused under Egyptian rule, namely, that God would deliver them from Egypt and bring them to a new land flowing with milk and honey. Obviously, this was good news. Mostly the references to milk and honey simply mean the land would be fruitful agriculturally (the milk) and productive (the honey). The land would be a benefit to the incoming inhabitants. It would be workable, sustainable, a land that would allow a measure of self-sufficiency for the Israelites, who believed God and followed Him into that land.
But, the second part of the Crasher character’s thought--Bloody lot of good it does if you can’t handle lactose and you’ve got diabetes to boot—moved me to the numerous Bible references in Exodus and other exodus-related texts concerning the weak, economically vulnerable, and the poor who would be co-occupants of this land flowing with milk and honey (e.g., Exod 22:22, 24-25; 23:3, 6; cf. Lev 19:15; Deut 1:17; 10:18ff ; 16:19; 24:17, 18; Prov 23:10, 11; Jer 7:6, 7; Amos 4:1-2, etc.). It is so true, that if one is lactose intolerant, one cannot enjoy the benefit of milk. Nor, can honey be useful to someone who has diabetes. Bloody lot of good it does them.
Similarly, the poor and other economically vulnerable populations are exactly in this bloody fix: the poor and economically vulnerable are unable—because they lack access to power, to jobs, to resources; social barriers, educational gaps, demographic separation; gender bias and racism; unfair legislative policy, unjust local zoning laws; and, the presence of violence in their community—to enjoy what the land has to offer. The economically vulnerable and the poor cannot utilize the milk and they lack the ability to enjoy the honey (or, cannot be productive for the lack of abilities and barriers).
Now, of course, I do understand that many people are poor of their own doing—let’s get that out of the way. And, I point out, there are many who are wealthy and affluent who are so not of their own doing as well, but are so despite who they are as people or what they can and cannot do. As for sin, I take it those who are poor and non-poor are of the same, both equally sinners. Yes, of course sin can lead to poverty—and it, as well, can lead to wealth. And, please understand it can be someone else’s sins that make others face the conditions of poverty. So let’s stop with that game and offer a Christian response to assist those who are poor to move out of poverty and stop generational poverty. Let’s actually grasp our Christian obligation to address the causes of poverty. Now with this all said, I’d like to move to a second thought I have from the book Crashers.
Christian Crashers teams that address issues of poverty
The exodus line from Crashers got me going--Land of milk and honey . . . Bloody lot of good it does if you can’t handle lactose and you’ve diabetes to boot. My stream of consciousness kept flowing. In the real world of plane crashes the book’s story described, I was impressed how the gathered experts would be called in to act and move toward a crash and the airplane debris, examining the crash, determining the cause or causes, and put things in place to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. I like this analogy.
Would it not make sense that such a team—or teams—of Christians (and even inviting non-Christian experts, as well, where needed and appropriate) to descend on areas of poverty and examine the blight and determine the cause or causes, and put things in place to ensure it doesn’t continue (or at least to begin to ameliorate the incidence of poverty)? (Now, wouldn’t that be a worthwhile endeavor to fund!)
It is interesting, in the Bible’s story of Exodus, there is a shift between the first promised move toward the Land flowing with milk and honey at the beginning (cf. Exodus 3:8) and the latter part of the story in Exodus 33. In the latter chapters of the book of Exodus, we discover that even the Israelites themselves were idolatrous—not just the Egyptians. This idolatry was a threat to their future and prosperity. Yet, they would still be able to enter into the Land flowing with milk and honey (it was a promise); but God would not go with them because they had become a stiff-necked people (a reference to idolatry). The Israelites would inherit the land as promised, maybe even benefit from it, but God would not go with them.
So, it is in some way the same for the people of God in today’s world to inherit the blessing of God, but actually be without God’s presence. Very similarly, non-poor Christians can enjoy the blessings of God’s creation, yet be without God (because their affluence and lifestyle is idolatrous). They can look and sound like God’s people, but not truly, since they live idolatrous lives. And without repeating myself from a host of other posts, it is clear from the Biblical data and the gospel itself that Christians are to be associated with the poor and should be concerned about the affects of poverty. Although true of most economic cultures, yet especially true in a culture that promotes upward mobility, Christians ought to be concerned for those who cannot benefit from the blessings of the Land (i.e., the economic social and demographic location) and be active (as a Go-Team) that addresses the causes of poverty. Local churches harnessing Go-Teams to deal with the issues of nearby poverty is a remedy (and repentance) of our idolatries.
But who and where are these experts? Now that’s a good question. I am thinking of the human capital many nonpoor congregations have where there would be experts from the social service world, business, education, psychology, urban development and redevelopment, economists, bankers, medical experts . . . natural, Christian Go-Teams. Crashers. Christian crash teams that could go into a community affected by poverty, investigate the causes, and develop and implement actions that would ameliorate the causes of poverty and provide the means for the poor to benefit from the blessings of the land.