Listen therefore, O rulers of nations, and understand; learn, O judges of the ends of the earth. Give ear, you that rule over multitudes, and boast of many nations. For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High, who will search out your works and inquire into your plans.
-Wisdom of Solomon, 6:1-3
Many parts of Scripture are addressed to people of great importance – kings, judges, priests, “you rich,” “you wise,” and so forth. Because most people who read these texts today are not a part of the group being addressed, there’s a temptation either to ignore the passage entirely, or read it with other people in mind.
Thing is, the reason so much time was focused on these people is because they’re the ones who knew how to read. If the writer had ever imagined a time when most people would be able to read their words, they might have chosen different phrasing.
So, if the author of the Wisdom of Solomon had written this admonition with 21st century Americans in mind, what might they have said?
“For your dominion was given you from the Lord, and your sovereignty from the Most High, who will search out your works and inquire into your plans.”
It would not be an exaggeration to say many average, run-of-the-mill, lower middle class Americans possess dominions which surpass that of ancient rulers. Many people who saw themselves as rulers of nations were, in reality, petty tyrants demanding food and protection from a handful of small farms and the people who worked them. You command access to a greater wealth of goods and services in the course of a regular shopping trip than they could have hoped for at the peak of the harvest in the midst of a bumper crop. Likewise, a single call to your local police station could bring a stronger force to your door in a matter of minutes than they could have mustered through months of conscription. In short, you are more powerful than many ancient rulers ever dreamed of.
If God promised to search out the works and inquire into the plans of those simple despots, what does that say about you? What does it say about the way you choose to wield your power?
Unlike that petty tyrant, you may never meet many of your “subjects,” but that doesn’t change the essence of this admonition.
Before you go to that store where you have access to vast quantities of goods, do you consider how your purchasing choices are impacting others? Whether the conditions under which that shirt was made were just; whether your desire to have tropical fruit in the middle of winter justifies the amount of fossil fuels required to transport it to you; whether that new device was built by free workers laboring in safe working conditions?
Before you make that call to the police station, do you consider the potential outcomes? How anonymous calls about ‘suspicious activity’ have gotten innocent children – most of them non-white – killed; How unjust systems have led our country to imprison a greater percentage of its people – most of them non-white – than any other nation?
It’s not always easy to consider the impact of our actions, especially in a society where systems have been put in place to prevent us from ever seeing it for ourselves. But if we want to honor God in all we do, it’s a step we have to take.
You possess more power than the kings and queens of old. When your works are searched out, will it be said you used that power wisely?