The Apostle Paul’s charge that those who are unwilling to work should not eat has often been taken in support of a callous form of conservatism. However, understood rightly, it reveals the way Christ speaks to all areas of life and labor.
In turning Jesus’ seemingly dismissive image of dogs and children at the meal table to her advantage, the Syrophoenician woman illustrates the tenacity of parents fighting for their children. As we act in God’s name within the world we should show the same determination on behalf of all of his children.
Perhaps part of the reason why disparities in food distribution continue to exist is that, when those of us who have food enough on our tables try to respond to disasters such as famine, without connection with the people who suffer them, both they and us are likely to come away empty. The ironic use of famine in Naomi’s story is able to suggest to us another way, an approach to famine that sees first the emptiness in relationships when kin from the ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ worlds find ourselves absent from one another.
The prophet Isaiah was a city dweller, but his mind was on the countryside. Trees, vineyards, and fields populate his thinking and that of his successors in this long book, where vegetation serves both as metaphor (as in Isaiah 5:1-7), and as the life-sustaining growth on which humans literally depend (as in vv. 8-10). Agricultural imagery appears from one end of the book to the other (1:8; 66:17), spelling out both judgment and hope.