“On the day that you stood aloof, … You too were as one of them. Obad. 11
Like me, what they did wasn’t all that bad. Though there were “strangers that carried off his wealth,” I didn’t do that. I didn’t steal. I took nothing that was not mine. And though there were “foreigners that entered his gate,” breaking and entering, that wasn’t me. I am not guilty of trespassing, of going where I do not belong. And though there were some who “cast lots for Jerusalem,” don’t lay that on me. I have no interest in them.
But the text is convicting. In standing aloof, “you too were as one of them.” It may not be so much what we do that convicts us. It may be what we don’t do.
One possible, positive response would be to stand up against that which is evil. That would certainly be in contrast to standing aloof. Be willing to protest. Speak up when you see a wrong. But let’s go a little further and examine this from a Gospel point of view.
With regard to wealth, the only real treasure is what God himself gives. The very best treasure is knowing God, a knowledge that God himself shares, and then sharing that knowledge of him. The greatest offense is not in carrying off wealth, but rather in hoarding it for ourselves. Though I do not take people’s money, I steal when I rob them of an opportunity to know God, when I stand aloof, and do not go to them with the Gospel.
With regard to trespassing, the definitions need to be reversed. I am not trespassing when I go visit my neighbor, just as he is not trespassing when he responds to an invitation to come over to my house. But I find myself guilty when I stay home alone, choosing my own isolation rather than interaction with needy neighbors, and when I prefer my own company to theirs. Trespassing is not the issue – but failing to make any kind of neighborly contact certainly is an issue.
Casting lots seems to be an effort to get what you can get. Take a chance. Maybe you will get lucky. But my responsibility is to sow seeds. I have not idea what will take root, what will spring up, or what will result in life that lasts forever. But I am a guilty soul when I fail to give what I can give, just as I would be guilty when I cast lots to get what I can get. And the first offense, having no interest at all, is at least as bad as the second.
I tend to look down on crooks. I think of myself as above them. And then this verse says, “you too (are) as one of them.”