Today’s scripture: Psalm 83 (NRSV) (The Message) (KJV) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (David Zier):

Reading this passage reminded me of my first job when I was sixteen. I was a dishwasher at the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House Restaurant, just off Allentown Road in Camp Springs, Maryland. It was an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant, that would have a line all the way around the mall where it was located for the people waiting to get in. There were so many patrons each night and the “all-you-can-eat” was delivered to each table, so you can imagine the pressure of being a dishwasher at this restaurant.

Being a dishwasher, I had odd jobs. Sometimes I had to bus tables because we would have no dishes to clean and they needed clean dishes for the all-you-can-eat menu. I made big vats of cole slaw, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, hush puppies (and even fried them), and we were the ones who fetched things from the freezers. Some things I had to carry seemed to weigh more than I weighed!

I did not mind the work. It was hard, it was intense, and it was long. But my boss who oversaw the kitchen area was one of the meanest people I can remember in my life. He would not treat anyone there in the kitchen with any respect. I look up the definition of mean in a dictionary and his photo still sits there in my mind. Everything he did was to bully. I remember thinking some pretty severe thoughts about what could happen to him so he would disappear. When I would work and he was not on that shift, it was like a totally different environment. And it seemed we would all get along better and work better and get more done when he was not around. So my fantasies would continue…

I remember wanting something bad to happen to him because life was miserable for everyone when he was around. Then one day, as he carried a pile of dishes across a wet floor, he slipped, hit his head hard to the ground (he was a very large man), and knocked himself out. Many of us were there to watch this happen. Some people giggled. But it turned into something that was not so funny. He was seriously hurt. There was a part of me inside that was happy, but that quickly turned to sorrow. Even though in my wildest dreams I would want some form of retribution on this man because of how he treated us and made us feel, I soon realized how the feelings actually consumed me. It wasn’t until that moment when he hit the floor that I realized how much energy and time I put into my feelings for retribution toward this man.

Terrifying people, shaming people, disgracing people, consuming people with fire — these are not things I would ask God to do. These come across as bully-type tactics. Our spiritual ancestors who lived when this psalm was written were accustomed to invasions, take-overs, scattering people around the region, and a culture of war. But the way that we can become consumed with feelings of retribution can carry us away from having peace in our own lives — almost like a bully-type tactic we play on ourselves.

Thought for the day: What is consuming you?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.