God responds to Habakkuk’s queries by pronouncing five woes of judgement on the Babylonians. These woes are presented in five stanzas of three verses each. Collectively, they form a song of mockery and judgement. The woes paint a complete picture of the Babylonian’s sin and the judgement that awaits them. It is scary, however, how much the five woes apply to our modern culture. The reader of these passages doesn’t have to stretch too far to recognize these sins in our world today. The first woe is a prime example. The First Woe: The Woe of Exploitation (Habakkuk 2:6-8)
6 Won’t all of these take up a taunt against him, with mockery and riddles about him? They will say: Woe to him who amasses what is not his — how much longer?— and loads himself with goods taken in pledge. 7 Won’t your creditors suddenly arise, and those who disturb you wake up? Then you will become spoil for them. 8 Since you have plundered many nations all the peoples who remain will plunder you — because of human bloodshed and violence against lands, cities, and all who live in them. (Habakkuk 2:6-8, NASB)
This first woe targets those who have become rich on the backs of others. It is important to recognize that the sin in this case isn’t being wealthy, but rather the method the Babylonians used to amass wealth. The passage says they amassed what was not theirs. They plundered their neighboring nations through bloodshed, violence, and dishonest practices. Because of their actions, the righteous will mock them (v.6). Verses seven and eight promise that their victims would eventually rise up and turn the tables on the Babylonians by plundering and pillaging their lands. History records that this woe came to pass in 539 BC when the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylon.
How does this woe translate into our modern culture? It should be obvious to most of us. Today there are people, governments, and corporations who amass wealth on the backs of others. People steal, extort, and charge excessive interest for loans offered to the little guy. The financial systems of the world tend to be crooked and those who amass their wealth in unrighteous ways would be wise to pay attention to this passage. Again, it is important to understand the sin isn’t being wealthy, rather, the sin is to accumulate wealth by taking advantage of others. I believe the warnings present in this passage still apply today. Those who take advantage of others will be mocked by the righteous. They most certainly run the risk of their victims rising up against them. There is no doubt that they will eventually have to face judgment for their actions.
Pastor Mark Driscoll offerer this chilling warning in a sermon, “In the world who are the rich people? Response: We are. You are. You’re the rich people. You are. There are 90 countries in the world where the average citizen spends less on all of their goods, food, housing, transportation, everything, 90 countries where the average person spends less on those things than you as the average American citizen spend on garbage bags to throw out your junk. You’re the rich people.” It is often tempting to become egocentric and to forget how wealthy most of us are in this country as compared to the rest of the world. And I am certainly not suggesting we should feel guilty in someway because of the wealth we are blessed with. I am suggesting, however, that we need to understand that the way we handle our finances and accumulate wealth (both corporately and individually) is important to God. If we are not careful, we will follow the way of Babylon.
Mark Driscoll. Five Weighty Woes. http://marshill.com/media/habakkuk/five-weighty-woes Dr. Constable. Notes on Habakkuk. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/habakkuk.pdf