Students of first century Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culture point out that in the days and lands of the Bible it went without saying that the value of the individual was a family matter. Name, identity, and honor were closely connected to parentage, tribe, and what a father, mother, son or daughter contributed to the community.
Randy Richards, who co-authored with Brandon O’Brien Misreading the Bible with Western Eyes, recently helped our Discover the Word team get a better sense of how deeply rooted the language and ideas of Scripture are in what a community considered to be honorable or shameful.
I came away struck by the thought that while modern Western culture leans toward honor that is grounded in personal merit and accomplishment, throughout history and even up to the present, much of the world been more inclined to think that what is good for the group—is good for the individual.
Seems to me that both are immeasurably important. Individually, according to Jesus, our names, needs and even the number of hairs on our head— are known in heaven—when not so on earth. And at the same time, what matters here, there, wherever, and whenever is the love we have—or lack— for those who are helped or hurt by what we do with what has been entrusted to us.
I need to be reminded today that in being loved as we are— we are here for one another.