Reader Writes, May 2018
The old King was troubled. Well according to the Queen he was more than troubled; he was actually very angry, which was rare enough for this temperate and compassionate man. The barons had gone too far, and were now seeking to undermine not only the wealth and security of the Kingdom but were offending Christian law. It’s a complex argument that turns out to be simple in the end. These barons, no longer content with the wealth and income husbanded from their lands, had become commodity traders and sought to put a price on everything, and sell it, at a profit.
So they had begun to measure how much money the Kingdom could ‘make’, completely ignoring the question of how much wealth the Kingdom could pass to its children. So mining for tin whilst dirtying wells was good because someone had to be paid to dig a new well. Selling licences to woodlanders from off to fell our forests was good even if heather grew in the place of fine timber. The Chancellor, also a baron, says this is good because the treasury is full of gold ducats. At the same time the forest is empty of timber, the steep fields are losing their soil, the wells are dirty and the fish are dying; so our children shall have less and less. And are these barons now happy? Of course not! They complain and eat themselves up with envy and forget what makes a home happy and full of laughter.
It’s no good at all muttered the King over his breakfast table, I must take my troubles to the Bishop. And of course the Bishop was a wise and prayerful man, living modestly and happily with his monks; more mirth and kindness there than in his court the old King had often observed. Most certainly he would see what the bishop thought of this gold versus true treasure argument, what we spent last year versus what we shall cherish in the future. As he walked to the Bishop’s hall, the old King wondered how on earth the Bishop would cast light on this conundrum. What could the scriptures say about such a problem? Does God care for the earth, or must we wait for paradise?
Well, Sir, said the Bishop (only the Bishop dared call the King Sir), Turn to Psalm 24, one of my favourites for this very reason. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the whole world and all people therein.” It’s simple and beautiful, it’s deep with far reaching consequences; ignore it at your peril Sir! And so a long conversation ensued, flooding light into the King’s troubled heart. Everything is God’s; we are but his tenants. All people are God’s, and our lives are his, if we accept him. The barons are quite wrong to fill the treasury but ignore true treasure. They are wrong to heap up ducats but be blind to justice. They are wrong to take today and steal from our children.
The King returned up the hill thoughtful but decided; he must curb the barons and protect the commons. We are stewards of the good earth, we are tenants provided with the soil’s fruit, we are workers, well rewarded, in God’s vineyard. The swifts had arrived at last and screamed, seemingly in accord, in the blue mountain sky, neighbours and fellow tenants.