Summary: Everyone’s not expected to fly overseas and devote their lives to the poor and needy. Everyone is expected, though, to do everything in their power to help those who are called to do that.
Obadiah - Who is my Brother
On Saint Patrick’s Day 2013, two people got in a fight in a Boston subway. After a heated argument, a woman gets up and starts brutally punching a man in the face. The other riders on the subway did nothing -- they just sat in their seats and watched. Many of them even recorded the fight on their cell phones and posted them on YouTube.
On April 17th, 2008, six girls got in a fight in Clarksville, Indiana. The girls all ranged in age from 12 to 14. At one point, the fight was 5 on 1, with one girl grabbing rocks from the ground and repeatedly beating the victim in the head. We know this because at least three adults stood by and recorded the fight on their cell phones. None of them tried to stop the fight.
There are countless more examples of this sort of thing happening -- people are getting hurt, sometimes even killed -- and everyone around them simply watch and do nothing. Why? Is it because we like to watch? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard friends of mine laughing about a fight they saw at school, or sharing a video of a fight online. A lot of times they get excited, and start “picking sides” -- even though they don’t know anything about what is happening or why.
This is actually a recognized psychological phenomenon, called the “Bystander Effect”. In short, people are less likely to help if someone is getting hurt if there is a large number of people around them. If they’re by themselves, though, they’re actually more likely to help. It’s something that’s gotten to the point where people who record a violent crime on their phone without trying to help the victim are getting in trouble themselves. Students are getting suspended; adults are going to jail.
This isn’t anything new, though. This has been going on for thousands of years -- not recording video on a cell phone, obviously -- but standing by, doing nothing, while other people get hurt. Getting punished for doing this isn’t new either. Let’s go to the book of Obadiah.
Obadiah is one of the shortest books in the entire Bible -- only 21 verses! But in it, Obadiah brings a word from the Lord against the nation of Edom, condemning them for just standing around and doing nothing while Israel gets conquered again and again.
But wait -- why would God condemn Edom for this, and not any other nation? What makes Edom different from, say, Moab? Or Assyria?
Well, to really understand Obadiah, we need to go back to Genesis. In Genesis chapter 25, starting with verse 23, we learn that Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, is pregnant with twins. “The Lord said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.’ ” The Lord was referring to the twins Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first, so he was entitled to his father’s inheritance. but Jacob tricked his brother into giving him the birthright instead. As you can imagine, Esau wasn’t very happy with this, so he held a grudge against his brother.