2015 Lent 29

bad dates

Jeremiah 24:1-10

“Bad dates!”

Do you remember this line from Raiders of the Lost Ark?  Indiana Jones was visiting his friend Sallah in Cairo, Egypt—if I recall correctly.  He tosses a date into the air, intending to catch it in his mouth.  (Dr. Jones is talented like that.)  The camera slows.  We watchers know what he doesn’t: that this date has been poisoned by a would-be assassin.

End over end the date spins.  It reaches the top of its arc.  And it begins to descend.  We watchers fear that our beloved hero will die (he’s too talented to miss, after all!).

But then, just before the date enters the gaping, anticipating, watering maw that is Dr. Jones’s mouth—ah, yes, kind providence!—Sallah snatches the fruit out of its trajectory.  And the assassin’s plot is foiled.

A befuddled Indie turns to look at Sallah, in real-motion time now, who points to a dead pet monkey on the floor—a monkey who had just recently eaten a date from the same stock—and says, “Bad dates!”

According to today’s passage, God views corrupt political systems and the people who run them like bad dates; like dates so bad they’ll kill you if you’re not watchful.  Except with Jeremiah it’s figs.

The common people are good figs, every one.  But the leaders—those priests and prophets Jeremiah’s been mentioning—are bad figs, every one, not fit for consumption.  They’re toxic.  And their toxicity will spread to the good figs.

This metaphor seems to apply to any organized structure, not just national leadership; not just politicians and pundits.  Authority is necessary in our world.  An orchestra needs a conductor.  But when the one in charge is corrupt, that person’s like a bad fig or date, good for nothing except the compost pile.

So, if you’re a person of authority, don’t be corrupt, greedy, or self-absorbed.  And if you work for such a bad date, remember Indie and Sallah.  Touch the toxic fruit if you must, but don’t ingest the poison.

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