Updated: Jan 30
I am reminded today of my black cat Idi, who I wrote about a while back. I am reminded of Idi because of the reference to “dogs under the table eating the children’s crumbs.”
Idi was one of four cats we had, to go along with two dogs. I told how we fed the four cats in a line of bowls, but we fed the dogs in separate place, away from the cats Still, like all adored pets, they all had a way of finding a place near the dinner table when it was time for us owners to eat.
One evening, my wife and I were entertaining another couple and we cooked 6 large, oven-fried chicken breasts, to go along with other side-dishes. As the animals gathered around, one guest asked, “Do you feed your pets scraps off the table?”
Of course we did … but not in front of company. So, we told them just to ignore the pets; and they did.
During dinner, in the empty chair across from my chair, I saw a black pair of cat ears slowly appear, rising above table level, to be followed by a pair of cat eyes. Idi had jumped into the empty chair there and was seeing how “the other half” dined.
Idi was almost all black, but this is about what he looked like as he watched us eat dinner.
Everyone saw him there, but I comforted everyone that he liked chicken, but was just watching. Slowly, as we ate, Idi’s full head rose above the table level; and his head turned left and right, scanning everything that was going on.
When we were finished eating, my wife and I were clearing the table of plates and leftovers. Idi slowly raised his body above table level; and as I was about to take some leftovers to the kitchen, I saw his little black paws gently rest against the edge of the table top.
When I came back to get the platter that had two leftover fried chicken breasts, there was only one there. Additionally, Idi was no longer at the table.
I asked my wife, “Did you take a chicken breast?” and at the same time that she said “No,” I heard growling from another room.
The chicken breasts were huge, but Idi had taken one in his mouth and then somehow run with it, through the living room, down the stairs of the split foyer, to the front door landing. There, his impatience caused him to begin guarding his “catch” with a constant loud growl, as he began to rip into the meat with his teeth, while holding it securely with his claws.
Idi wasn’t happy when I retrieved the partially gnawed chicken from his grasp; and he was less happy when the same chicken (sans bones) was divided between the two dogs. Idi had already eaten his crumb from the table.
A theme found in today’s readings deals with sharing. The first verse of the Proverb says, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
It goes on to say, “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.”
Perhaps it was these two verses that led the beatnik generation to start seeing “bread” as “great riches”?
The other day I listened to a sound bite of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – a self-declared Socialist, who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate, as an “Independent.” He proposed a political revolution that would change America’s economic system that protects large corporations. He said that change would benefit small business.
After the soundbite, the television channel I was watching flashed a clip of Bernie supporters on the street. One was a man; perhaps old enough to have been a beatnik in the early 1960’s, banging slowly on a small drum, while “singing” the lyrics, “Vote for Bernie Sanders and share the wealth.”
Got any spare bread, man?
For some reason, I hear Bernie talking out of both sides of his mouth. One on side he was saying we need a government that is based on the religious morals of sharing; but on the other he was saying government must be rid of all connection to religion. While attractive to both the religious and atheists, the message says, “Let Socialism be your religion and a Socialist government your god.”
God did not send His Son to demand the world share. As such, Jesus was never a politician, never kneeling before a philosophy of his own making or that of another human being. Never was Jesus the son of a lesser god, than YAHWEH.
Simply by wise Solomon writing, “The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all,” wisdom recognizes that there will always be those with more and those with less. God created both for a reason. Sharing is then a purposeful option, one which determines where one’s heart is, as known by God.
In a Socialist society, the State (run by people like Bernie Sanders) becomes the rich and the vast majority of the people become the poor. In that state, the people have little to share among themselves. All are dependent on the laws created by men … to share the wealth.
In my home, where my wife and I have pets (all the children have grown and left the nest), we are the rich and the pets are the poor. It is much like a Socialist society, since the pets do little sharing, with them more likely to fight like possessive children, if one attempts to use something that has been given to the other.
My pet Idi and his personal desire for more, shows how some people will take the risks that others are afraid to take, so more than what is normally shared can be obtained. In a Capitalistic system, pets like Idi represent a Middle Class that takes advantage of opportunities to take more.
But, I … like a Socialist dictator … took Idi’s hard-earned wealth of fried chicken away from him; and I gave what he had “earned” to the dogs … the ones who knew to show patience, because they were afraid of what would happen if they begged at the table. I shared the wealth … but not like Idi wanted it shared.
Solomon said, “Do not rob the poor because they are poor,” which means “do not take candy from babies” because babies cannot defend themselves and their possessions. It also means “the poor have nothing to take worth selling your soul for.”
Snake oil salesmen prey upon the poor, in a similar manner as does a highway man, who steals from whoever falls into his trap.
In the Gospel of Mark today, when we hear Jesus say to a Gentile woman of Syrophoenician origin, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” we have Jesus actually speaking out against a society that would “rob the poor because they are poor.”
That society was that one maintained by the Jews, which saw Gentiles as poor animals, unworthy of befriending. Yet, the poor people were who was a constant source of profit to be had by the rich (by comparison) Jews.
While the Gentile woman misheard what Jesus said, not understanding what he meant – due to Gentiles commonly being treated like the dogs of the land, by Jews – when she replied to Jesus, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs,” she spoke from a position of poverty … yet she spoke with a firm tone of respect.
The Gentile woman called Jesus “Sir,” a polite term for an adult male. The Greek word is “Kyrie,” which can state “Sir,” but also “Lord” and “Master.” She saw Jesus as the one who sat at the most important position at the table – a Lord of “great riches,” but also one “of good name” – with the Jews being “the children” of God, whom, Jesus served as his guests, family and children.
She admitted that she, and her daughter with a demon within her, were but “dogs under the table” … waiting.
Except this dog … this Gentile woman … “begged [Jesus] to cast the demon out of her daughter.” The dog was begging for a crumb to fall onto the floor sooner than later. She was like my cat Idi, taking a seat at the table, yet waiting for the opportunity to make a crumb fall his way … while still letting everyone finish eating, before taking what was left over.
When the woman admitted her recognition that the Jews were better off then she and that she knew her position as a common servant … one of the poor to be used by the rich … she avowed that she accepted this class status …
And when she did not grab at Jesus, knowing her place to stay at a distance, she instead pleaded for him to hear her request, which was more for her daughter than for herself. She was simply begging for a prayer to be sent to the God of the Jews, uttered by Jesus, for her daughter’s sake.
Jesus saw her and her daughter as “the children that must be fed first.” The Greek word translated as “fed” is chortasthēnai, a form of chortazó, meaning “to be satisfied” or “to be fattened.” As “fattened,” the implication is to take one who is thin and make one plumper – to share the wealth of plenty with the impoverished who have little.
Jesus had traveled to the region of Tyre and Sidon because the Jews in positions of influence in Jerusalem and Galilee were far from being satisfied with what Jesus was feeding them. They were too full of themselves to be “fattened” more. Thus, Jesus avoided the region of Galilee – the land of his hometown, Nazareth – probably because only dogs of persecution plotted there for his return home.
For that reason, it was not yet Jesus’ time to throw himself to the dogs. That would come later … when he would be crucified.
Meanwhile, the children of faith were fed Spiritual food in Syro-Phoenicia … and those children were Gentiles. Jesus told the woman, “For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.”
Now James – the brother of Jesus – would become THE Christian Jew of the Jerusalem synagogues, after Jesus’ Ascension. The epistle of James is basically a proclamation telling all Jews that being born of faith was not enough. To James, the only measure of one’s faith was each Jew’s individual works, based on that faith.
In the part of that letter read today, we see James addressing why the Jews were indeed dogs – animals undeserving of a seat at the table of God – when they displayed “acts of favoritism.” He wrote, “You take notice of one wearing the fine clothes,” catering to the wealthy; but then, “to the poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or ‘Sit at my feet.’”
That, said James, “dishonored the poor,” because “God chose the poor of the world to be rich in faith.” To treat the poor as “dogs” and the rich as “kings,” those who proclaim to be born of faith “show partiality,” thus they “commit sin.”
In that same vein, Christians are held to the same standards. Bernie Sanders is partial to tricking the poor into voting for his promises of wealth redistribution, when the only real redistribution of wealth will be away from the many and to the few … the ones who would benefit from Bernie Sanders being president.
My cat Idi was likewise for food redistribution; but Idi was ALWAYS hungry and would constantly be looking for more food to come his way.
Christians, like Jews and like Socialists, too often put more energy into creating ideas that benefit a world they would prefer … while casting judgment on those whose ideas they do not like or whose “party” is different … so James proposed the problem, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food (poor), and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”
If you want a Socialistic, income redistribution world – free fried chicken breasts in every pot – then stop selling that idea while you have income and chicken in your possession, with no plans to give any of yours away. What is the good of a plan that hopes someone else will take care of the poor for you, while your life remains comfortable and unchanged?
When you see how James would flatly tell the Jews of Jerusalem, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead,” you can see how no amount of faith in one’s government can ever get one into heaven. The government of Jerusalem was the epicenter of a “dog-eat-dog” world, with plenty of ideas and laws, but little action of religious faith.
Thus, we can see how Jesus’ touching the lives of two Gentiles of the region of Tyre, is followed by his physically touching one outcast Jew. This order of sequence is fulfilling Jesus’ words, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”
In the region of Decapolis, Jesus encountered Jews who brought him another “unclean” Jew to heal. They could not heal anyone themselves, because of their faith being so little. So, they were figurative “dogs.”
It was time for Jesus to feed the dogs the leftovers.
Before you can fully grasp this physical touching Mark witnessed, you have to understand that any clean Jew who touched an unclean Jew – like was deemed the deaf and dumb Jew – one would have to be washed and officially cleansed by a priest, before being clean again. Because Jesus so often touched such Jews (or they touched him), scholars see that as Jesus not believing in the laws that forbid him from touching the deaf and blind, because touching them was not against Mosaic Law.
I believe to seek such mental justification for Jesus’ holiness, as the Son of God, blinds one from the power of God to heal those who came to Jesus BEFORE any physical touching ever took place. Their faith healed them just by coming to Jesus (“No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6b).
As such, Jesus had no need to physically touch the deaf and dumb man, and certainly not twice. Both touches, and the act of spitting, are separately symbolic, relative to the state of being the Jewish faith had fallen – it had fallen to the dogs.
First, when Jesus “put his fingers in his ears,” Jesus was preventing the man from hearing the negativity of what James would later call “favoritism.” The man was treated verbally with insults and condemnations; but Jesus blocked the man’s ears from his being influenced by outside words. Instead, the man was enabled to hear the voice of God within, due to Jesus’ touch.
Second, when Jesus “spat,” he did not spit on his finger. Jesus symbolically cleared his mouth of the dust of travel, which was from the land deemed by Jews to be physically holy. Jesus also “spat” as a gesture to those who would condemn a man as being unfaithful, due to a physical imperfection. Jesus spat out the injustice of Jews seeing a deaf man as a sinner, while they sinned by doing nothing to help this “poor” man. Jesus “spat” at the inability of Jews to do the works of healing, as priests of God.
Finally, when Jesus touched the man’s tongue and said, “Be opened,” Jesus was opening this one poor Jew’s mouth to speaking the truth, which he heard spoken by his inner ear. The dog’s mouth was opened to be fed by Spiritual food, which would be shared with many others. Jesus “opened” the man’s heart and mind, after God had allowed him to hear and speak clearly, so he would become an Apostle who would care for others with infirmities.
The overall symbolism of this man’s healing was that all Jews were welcomed to likewise be healed of their inabilities to hear the truth of Jesus’ words, and to speak clearly what the Holy Spirit would have them say, rather than keep on stammering when Jesus would ask them a question. The dogs of Judea, Decapolis and Galilee had ears, but could not hear; and they had tongues, but could not speak the meaning of the word of God.
When Jesus ordered the witnesses, “Tell no one,” this was so a rumor would not spread that Jesus healed the deaf and dumb man. God had healed him, after he came to Jesus with faith. They would say the man spoke the words Jesus put in his mouth, when Jesus opened his tongue to speak what God had him to say.
Jesus was not trying to have a world dependent on one man. Jesus was trying to open the world up to having faith in the One God – YAHWEH, so they could all eventually become another Jesus.
As successful as Jesus was 2,000 years ago, we now have again gone to the dogs. We put our faith in political philosophies and blowhard politicians who say, “Vote for me!” for all the wrong reasons.
We need to become deaf to those lies and hear the voice of truth within.
We need to spit out all our endorsements of men and women towards whom we show favoritism, while they speak poorly of those who do not think like them.
We need to open our mouths without forethought and speak in the tongues of the Lord.
But neither God nor Christ is a Socialist, so no one is forced to share any “riches of faith.” Everything is voluntary. It is the “honor system,” where you honor God and Christ by receiving their willingness to share grace. Just as Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you,” the implication is there will always be those of wealth and riches … regardless of any plans our rulers devise.
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