Monday, 1 September 2014

Showing off and its antithesis

Today's verses (Esther 1:5 - 8 and Matthew 4:8 - 9) show Ahaseurus showing off his enormous wealth - curtains of the most expensive material available; couches of 'gold and silver', presumably covered or inlaid, rather than solid; a mosaic floor of marble, mother of pearl and precious stones.

It is almost too much to imagine: I can  hardly believe it would be possible today. How could a wealthy man ensure that his craftsmen would not be stealing the precious metals and gems they were working with, for a start? Even a tiny amount 'acquired' by a poorer man would be life-changing.

This whole scene smacks of arrogance and exploitation. Even if we did not know that much of the Ancient World was built on the labour of slaves, we can guess so: for one man to own so much is wholly disproportionate in any society.

Then there is the temptation of Jesus, as Satan offers him the world and all its riches: he would have become the wealthiest and most powerful man ever to live.

And Jesus rejects the offer: he is already the heir of the Great Creator, who owns all the wealth in the world. There is something far better waiting for Jesus, and he refutes the Devil.

How topsy turvy: the 'better' is an agonising criminal's death so that we might become heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ... the words in Romans 8:17 which finish with "if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."

Untold wealth...and suffering...

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