To Be of the One Percent

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rmarschall.jpgIt's all over the news now, the disparity between the "99 percent" and the "One percent" — or, rather, the resentment and envy that the majority is supposed to harbor against the more wealthy. It is at the core of the "Occupy" crowds' chants and signs.

"Theodore Roosevelt correctly observed that the sin of envy is no less a sin than that of greed."

Theodore Roosevelt correctly observed that the sin of envy is no less a sin than that of greed. And years ago, a friend from France once gave me the best definition of Socialism (therefore, its most potent pushback). Francois Mitterand had been elected president in his country; the Socialists were coming to power; and among their proposals, in the name of equality, was the abolition of First-Class seats on public transportation.

"Why is it that the Socialists never want to abolish anything that is second-class?" my friend asked.

"Jesus had a different take on the numbers of 99 and one."

That riposte has come to mind when hearing so often lately of the Ninety-Nine versus the One percents. "Versus" is the operative word; a campaign to raise the civic temperature. But something else has come to mind — that Jesus had a different take on the numbers of 99 and one. Nothing to do with current politics … except as those numbers provide a shout-out to our souls.

Let us remember Christ's parable of the Lost Sheep. It is found in Luke 15:4-7. The gentle shepherd had a flock of 100, but one had gone astray. And he set out to search, high and low, far and wide, for that wayward sheep. The sheep was found, rescued, and restored to the shepherd's flock.

Many of us have the natural reaction to think that the sensible thing would have been to play safe with the ninety-nine. A similar impulse, in the other parable of the Prodigal Son, is to observe that the other son was slighted after all of his work and obedience, while his errant brother was feted by the father upon his return.

Our problem as humans is that we tend to see ourselves as members of the flock of ninety-nine. "What is one sheep against so many?" We get proud of our accomplishments, jealous of others receiving favor. Our bigger problem is that God sees us as that Lost Sheep, and the son who departed and sinned — not as we see ourselves.

Heaven rejoices when one sinner is saved, when the Good Shepherd has restored the wayward. Our Heavenly Father arranges a lavish feast when we return. In each case we are not rewarded for straying: we are forgiven when we return.

"Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine —
Are they not enough for Thee?"
But the Shepherd made answer, "This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me;
And although the road be rough and steep
I go to the desert to find My sheep."

Jesus not only seeks us out; He persists. For us to be as THAT "one percenter" we should be grateful … and can take assurance. Occupy God's flock.

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"The Ninety and Nine" was written as a children's poem by Elizabeth Clephane in 1868. The great hymn-writer Ira D Sankey read it when on a Dwight L Moody crusade in Scotland years later; he tucked it into his vest pocket. That evening Moody preached on "The Good Shepherd," and asked Sankey, his worship leader, to sing a hymn. Sankey remembered that poem in his pocket, took it out, and sang this song impromptu, forming the music as he went. It is now a standard of the church.

Click: The Ninety and Nine

Rick Marschall is the author of 65 books and hundreds of magazine articles. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals; co-author of "The Secret Revealed" with Dr Jim Garlow. His article is reprinted here with permission.