The Power of Perspective

<%image(20050228-santa biblia.jpg|40|60|null)%>One of the books I have been reading lately is Santa Biblia: The Bible Through Hispanic Eyes by Justo Gonzalez. Though it is impossible for one author to capture the perspective of an entire culture, Gonzalez has truly opened my mind to the variety of ways possible to read the Bible based on our setting. My own reading of the Bible based in suburban, middle class America will differ significantly from an ethnic minority in America that is economically disadvantaged. While some interpretations offered by Gonzalez are hard to relate to, he has also added tremendous richness and perspective to a number of Bible stories that I have never truly understood.

In the story of the land owner who hires a variety of workers throughout the morning and afternoon (at times something like 8, 10, 12, 2, and 4), yet pays them all the same for the days work. My own reading of this story tends to wince at the owner who is seemingly giving hand outs to the people who were lazily sitting around for most of the day, and then get a full days wage for a few hours of work. I identified with the laborers who felt cheated, even if they did agree to work all day for a set wage.

Gonzalez related that those who live in poverty or who struggle economically read the same story and instantly relate to those who were hired later in the day. They know what it is like to need and desire work and not find any. They see the later workers not as lazy, but as unfortunate. They would gladly work early in the morning. The land owner just did not find them yet. Their needs are the same as the early workers. Both require a full days wage.

The land owner in such a reading is not suspected of being unfair, but seen as gracious and understanding. He is more concerned with providing the needs of his workers, as opposed to following regulations about hourly wages.

This story is one of the more simple and easily related examples from the book, but it does illustrate how we relate to certain sides of Biblical stories based on our context. I should also mention that Gonzalez has an incredible analysis of the role of race and minority status throughout the book of Acts, especially through chapters 1-5 and then the sudden opposition to the church in chapter 6 that results in the martyrdom of the Stephen (a Greek) at the hands of the Jews and other God-fearing Greeks who wanted to be accepted by the Jews.

This story of the land owner also reveals to me the power of the Gospel and of Christ. Jesus is relevant to all people in all situations. If we can integrate some of the hispanic perspective (and others that differ from our own) into our own relationship with Christ, then we have a richer and fuller picture of who Jesus is.