Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
(I Samuel 8:4-7.10-22a; Mark 2:1-12)
The need for a king, as the elders of Israel express in the first reading today, may sound quaint to modern ears. After all, society has gone far beyond government by a single ruler. However, the longing for a monarch signifies a desire implanted deep in every human heart. A king represents security so that the people can both work and rest in peace. Kings theoretically will judge the people fairly because they are endowed with abundant wealth. Even more importantly, kings have armies to protect the people from marauders. All this, of course, says nothing of the inherent wisdom with which kings are supposedly blessed. We may not clamor for kings, but we do seek the social benefits that kings represent.
God tells Samuel in the reading that the people’s request for a king constitutes a rejection of Himself as their ruler. In pursuing social security, are we similarly denying God’s role as our provider? This is not a frivolous question as we see development of state welfare at the same time as the waning of belief in God. We can rephrase the issue for the sake of clarity. In government-mandated health insurance, government-subsidized education, and government-provided food stamps are we relying foremost on the state rather than on God’s Providence?
Just as God allows the Israelites to have a king, He can approve of our system of social welfare. Any rejection that He suffers will be the result of our pride not of our prudence. We become proud when we start thinking that we are independent of God, that we can thrive without Him, and that we do not have to heed His ways. Prudent people will always recognize that they are powerless over all contingencies and that God is ultimately in control of their destinies. Along with striving to provide social guarantees, people of faith will also pray to God for deliverance from evil.