Humans have a complicated relationship with the idea of control. Sayings such as, “He’s totally out of control” or admonitions to “Get control of yourself!” give the impression that we are supposed to take charge, be organized, stay calm, and do what needs to be done. Conversely, the first step in many 12-step recovery programs is to admit our lack of control. Meanwhile, being too tightly wound leads to accusations that we are “control freaks.”
Psalm 127 reads like a response to folks caught in the latter category. Maybe people building the house or guarding the city aren’t “control freaks,” but they seem to have an unrealistic sense of their own ability to determine outcomes. Rising early and going to bed late, they labor in vain—because, the psalmist says, it is God who is in charge.
The psalmist’s message, however, is not quite so simple or literal. Leaving building material in a vacant lot and waiting for the Lord to build the house is likely to be a futile effort. It reminds me of high school friends who didn’t study for a math exam but instead prayed that God would help them pass because “God is in control.” I wanted to say, “Yes, but God also gave you a brain and a math textbook and a teacher so you’d learn this stuff for the exam.”
Psalm 127 speaks to the deep human desire—and temptation—to ascribe to ourselves more power than we actually possess, and to take credit for more than we deserve. But the psalm is not an excuse to wash our hands of responsibility. Instead we are called to a balance: of toil and rest, of work and discernment, of gratitude and accountability. We have work to do, but we attend to it within a world God has created for our good, and for the good of those with whom we share it.
Holy Creator, grant us wisdom, courage, and balance in all we face. Amen.
Ruth’s story forms part of the background of the family of Jesus. The son of Ruth and Boaz, Obed, is David’s grandfather. The women of Bethlehem rejoice with Naomi at the birth of her grandson, and the psalmist declares that children are a blessing from God. In the scriptures, children are spoken of only as a blessing, never as a liability (unlike some narratives in our culture). The writer of Hebrews builds upon the eternal nature of Christ’s sacrifice, proclaiming that his death was sufficient once for all. In Mark, Jesus warns his disciples not to be fooled by appearances. Those who put on a big show of piety do not impress God. God wants us instead to give from the heart, even if no one but God sees.
Read Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17. Who are the people in your community who lack the basic provisions for a safe and healthy life? How do you try to help meet their needs?
Read Psalm 127. In what ways do you invite God to be part of your work?
Read Hebrews 9:24-28. When have you eagerly waited for something? How did that feel?
Read Mark 12:38-44. How do you practice generosity in the way you allocate your resources and time?
Responda publicando una oración.