I was in one of our schools the other day talking to the children in the school yard. On these occasions they are always full of chat and questions. As we were talking my eye caught two of the youngsters dividing up a chocolate bar. The agreement obviously was that it was a 50/50 job, half for one and half for the other. But I could see myself that it was far from equal more like ¾ for one and ¼ for the other. I could see that the one who got the lesser piece was far from pleased, despite his protests the person dividing it maintained that he had halved things.
We might smile at the situation because we have seen it so often often with children. But what is funny, easily overlooked and forgiven in children isn’t so funny or amusing in adults.
When we think of world trade, world resources, world riches this is exactly what happens, those who are dividing up take the lion’s share and leave the others with the smaller portion. With a sly sleight of hand they deal themselves the lion’s share and leave others to scramble for what is left. What’s funny and what’s amusing in children isn’t funny in adults.
Strangely the same situation is what we see in the early church, as we heard in the first reading. By agreement they have all decided to share their goods but a complaint arises that these goods are not being shared equally. The Hellenists, the Greek converts, say that they are getting less than the Jewish converts. It seems that favouritism has entered into it and what was to be an equal share didn’t turn out to be the case.
The way the apostles resolve the situation is to choose people of good repute. People who will act as honest brokers – 6 people who will take on this service – the Greek word is diakonia and these men are now known in the Church as deacons: people who serve others..
So often in any given dispute to see that fairness is done, there often has to be an honest broker, a good middleman, a trusted person who shows no favour to one person over another. Their actions and their judgements are trusted because they are tested and seen to be good, just and right.
Governments and states turn to wise individuals and trusted organisations to resolve intractable disputes. Enemies ask friends to mediate. There are always people out there who will be even handed, honest and fair.
In today’s world for all of the dispute s and murderous conflicts we should be looking for wise and good and trusted individuals and organisations that can play the role: disarm angry people, bring people to their senses, find solutions.
Maybe that goes for ourselves too, in moments of disagreement we should seek out wise people who will give sound advice.
When I thought of it watching the children dividing that chocolate bar, I made no comment even although I saw the injustice of what was going on. So often that is the case, when we see injustices like that we fall silent, even although by the very fact that we have seen it means we are now involved. We often think it is better not to get involved, not to take up a position, not to raise our head above the parapet. Maybe the apostles did the same, maybe they saw the inequality in the sharing but said nothing not wanting to inflame tempers. But credit to them they came up with a solution.
Its so easy to sit back and say nothing, do nothing and not get involved. Its very easy to back off even when we know it is not right.
Instead is it not better to think that for every problem there is a solution, every question there is an answer that seems a good rule of thumb. The counter of that seems hopeless, that there are problems that cannot be fixed, problems that will never be mended, solution that can never be found. It is a council of despair.
Instead is it not better to say that very problem has its solution, it is just a matter of finding out what it is and maybe finding the right person who will help us to find it.