The latest in our series on Justice and Theology from J Foster. Legend.

So there I was, strolling around a supermarket doing the weekly food shopping when I saw something on the shelf that I hadn’t noticed before and I stopped. As I looked at the tin of ‘Fairtrade’ baked beans on the shelf I could almost audibly hear the voices of the Old Testament prophets challenging me – ‘So, J, which brand is it to be?’ I often hear them when I walk through the aisles of competing products; from tea to cereal, loo roll to bananas. It’s like having Jeremiah or Isaiah wandering around with me.

It may be weird, but I’m becoming more and more conscious of the Prophets when I walk through our local shopping centre and even when ordering a coffee after a meal out.

You see, Isaiah is in no doubt whose side God is on when it comes to issues of economic oppression and turning a blind eye to poverty. The messianic figure he repeatedly describes has justice and bringing protection to the poor at the forefront of his character.

Jeremiah’s sharp words condemn Israel for their refusal to stand up for the weak and the marginalised urging them to defend the cause of those in need leaving God’s pointed question of “is that not what it means to know me?” hanging in the air (Jer. 22). The Prophets were clear, it is simply not possible to separate issues of justice from loving God.

When the prophets walked through the dusty streets of Jerusalem the food they ate was produced by the people they met. The clothes they wore were made by their neighbours’ families. I think it’s a lot harder to treat people badly when you have to look them in the eye or see them in the street. Yet the people the Prophets lived amongst managed to.

God spoke powerfully and sharply through those anointed men (and women) as they stood at the city gate, in the market squares and the Temple courts warning their community of what God thought of their lifestyles. The Law had taught them to look after those who had little or nothing, to treat them with dignity and ensure the vulnerable were not taken advantage of in the pursuit of wealth. To borrow the voice of Micah, they were to ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with [their] God’. This wasn’t some grand project or something only those few super-spiritual elite could achieve, it was a calling to weave justice and fairness into the everyday life of each and every person who belonged to God’s people.

But they didn’t do it.

They ignored the voice of God and simply carried on getting richer and more comfortable; enjoying their surroundings believing that because their lives looked good it meant that God was pleased with them.

The call hasn’t changed but it is far easier to ignore the voice of the Prophets when we can’t see the tears of the poor or oppressed. We follow the same God as the Prophets and the call of our Father today is the same for each of us as it was then. If, as Jeremiah challenges us, we say we know God, then the way we live day in and day out is to look different to those around us.

Our everyday, mundane choices matter.

So, how do I select the food that goes into my shopping basket each week? Will I listen to the voices of the Prophets and buy less but spend more in order to contribute something to the unseen lives of those around the world that don’t get a lot of choices in life?

What do you think the Prophets would have to say to us when a factory collapses in a third world country killing hundreds of people who were making cheap clothes for our high street?

The Prophets spoke harsh and uncomfortable words to God’s people when they forgot that they were the ones who were to look out for the vulnerable and if we don’t feel uncomfortable when we read the Scriptures then I think we’ve missed something…

Thanks to incredible people who run amazing charities and organisations such as the TearfundFairtrade Foundation, The One Foundation, Compassion and SO many others it has never been easier for each of us to join together and make choices that answer the call to truly love God.

After all, every little helps, it’s just not always my lifestyle that should benefit.

We’d love to hear any thoughts you have, so feel free to get in touch,

Thanks,

J

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2 Responses to Justice Theology: The Prophets

  1. Becky Clarke says:

    Having listened and been challenged about fair trade and trade injustice for a number of years – and trying to shop responsibly and in an informed way – I have decided to use these principles to underpin how I set up and run a new cafe in my local village in Coventry. It’s called The Good Honest Food Company. My aim is to use as many locally-produced or locally-supplied and fair trade products as my ingredients – and as organic and free range as possible. I do not want to make that the focus of what I do – but just what I do because that’s how it should be. It’s quite challenging but I believe that God wants us to be good stewards of the abundance that he gives us. The ingredients will be used to make good, nutritious – but gorgeous food that makes people feel good when they eat it.
    My aim for the cafe is to use my God-given gift of hospitality to make people feel valued through the vehicle of food. That sounds a bit pompous but I hope you get my meaning!
    I have been at the Soul Survivor at Stafford for the last few years – as the cook for our group! – and have been challenged by the Soul Action stuff I have heard. Our three teenage children have benefitted enormously from their Soul Survivor experiences – and, in fact, one of our daughters will be working at the Soul Action Cafe at Stafford this year.
    I try to be informed and then use that information. Now that I know that there are fair trade baked beans I will have to look them out and use them at the cafe!

    Keep up the good work!

    Regards

    Becky Clarke

    • soulaction says:

      Hey Becky,

      That sounds fantastic – there are loads of things that we can do that will help us to look after creation and still to make people feel valued and loved. Sounds like a trip to Coventry is in order!

      I hope that the coffee shop goes well!

      Hopefully we will see you at Stafford again this year,

      God bless,

      Simon

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