I am grateful for the safety net that our society provides, especially Social Security and Medicare. Our family has had dealings with the Social Security Administration related to an issue over 10 years ago. It’s quite a tale. At one point they seemed to think we owed them money. There was a review and we were absolved of paying. That happened again several years later. Same result. Then, recently, we got notification again that we owed money. We were not absolved this time. We paid. Wages were garnished anyway. This resulted in overpayment. We were then told they owe us money. Whew! Then we get a notice that we still owe several thousand dollars more, after supposedly overpaying and not getting a refund. The latest notification tells us we are getting some money back. Of course, we don’t want to pay any more that we have to. But the greater concern is the constantly changing story with virtually no justifying explanation for the whole situation. It doesn’t give me much confidence in the government and its ability to properly administer a program that supports millions of people. And I am one who believes that we should be able to count on the government to be fair and competent in its dealings. I think we should be able to fully trust the government not to take advantage of people because the government is not driven by the profit motive or greed.
In Psalm 118, we are told:
It is better to take refuge in God
than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in God
than to put confidence in princes.
As I said, I am by nature a trusting person and think that we should be able to have confidence in the government as well as others. But human institutions and individuals are always prone to error if not corruption. Greed and self interest can win the day over honesty and ethics. The writer of the psalms knows this, too. This is simply part of the human character. Thus, the psalm encourages us to put our full and complete trust only in God.
I agree with this advice. But it invites comment on the nature of God. If the concept of God is a judgmental, mercurial, unpredictable, vengeful God, then I might hesitate about that trust. There are other concepts of God that I would find equally objectionable. The point is, if you are going to put your full and complete trust in God and orient your life around that trust, then it really matters what that God is like. Putting your total trust in one kind of God could have a completely different result from putting your total trust in another kind of God. Our concept of God really does matter if we are putting our total trust there.
If we feel hesitant about putting our total trust in God, maybe part of the problem is the way we are thinking about God. Perhaps our understanding or definition of God needs revision so that we can put our total trust in God. I think a valid working conception of God should be far more that the typical superhero supernatural God rescuing people and doing favors for them when he is not punishing them. That kind of image does not work for me. That is not a God that I could give my total trust to. The more we make God in our image, the less trustworthy that God is in my view.
As this Lenten season draws to a close, we may want to spend some time thinking about our conception of God. How do you think of God? How do you experience God? How do you define God? How do you talk about God? Then ask yourself if you are putting your trust in God. If you trust God, then your behavior should reflect that trust. Does it? Do you trust God more than you trust other people, social institutions, the government? I certainly want to be able to trust God more that I trust the Social Security Administration, even though SS can seem just as mysterious as God! People and human organizations will inevitably let us down at times. God, while mysterious, should always be steadfast.
We pray that we keep our commitments and can be trusted by others. We want to be honest and dependable adding integrity to our society. Yet, at times, we will disappoint ourselves and others. May we seek the forgiveness we need and to be forgiving of others. May we keep God at the center of our lives for God is truly worthy of our trust. In this, as in all things, may Jesus be our guide. Amen.