Thursday, December 5, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake

My favorite podcast is called Stuff You Missed in History Class.  I have always loved history and this podcast brings so many things to my attention that I never knew before.  Recently I listen to a podcast on the life of Marie Antoinette.  I learned something new about those famous words of hers, "let them eat cake".

Even if you know very little about Marie Antoinette, you have probably heard that when the peasants of France were starving from lack of bread she proclaimed, "let them eat cake".

Actually, Marie Antoinette never said it.  She was known to be concerned for the peasants.  There are records of her taking care of a peasant who'd been gored by a wild animal as well as taking in an orphaned boy.  Besides written accounts of her kind and generous nature, there are undisputed facts that prove she never spoke those famous words.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote "let them eat cake" in his book, Confessions, that was first published in 1782. Marie Antoinette was 10 years old under her mother's care in Austria when the book was published.  

The expression isn't as harsh as it sounds. What Rousseau actually wrote is "qu'ils mangent de la brioche." This doesn't mean "let them eat cake," it means "let them eat egg based bread". Brioche, egg based bread, was a more expensive bread than the typical flour and water bread of the French peasants. A French law required bakers to sell their brioche at the same price as their inexpensive bread if they ran out. What has been translated as "let them eat cake" actually meant, "if they have no inexpensive bread, let them eat the more expensive brioche.

In the late 18th century, much of the French population was living in desperate poverty, while the upper classes were living a life of decadence. As a result, dissatisfaction quickly spread throughout the city of Paris. Why should people go hungry when the King and Queen had enough to feed everyone? Why should people live in abject poverty, when those inside the palace had more than they could possibly consume in a thousand lifetimes? Why should people be content with poverty when there were people who lived a life of luxury on the back of their tax dollars?

In 18th century France, the contrasts between the palace and the streets were so strong that it led to widespread anger. The people knew from experience that the current government was not a solution to their problems. In fact, the royal family seemed to be making life harder with each passing day.  The person who drew the most criticism was Marie Antoinette, whose foreign birth and extravagant lifestyle made her an easy target for public anger.  It was easy to fabricate stories about the queen's spendthrift habits. Very likely, someone attributed the words to her, and the story seemed true enough.  

Here in the 21st century we still see these same feelings.  Frustrated people through the centuries have felt there has got to be better government.  Is there any hope for something better, or do we just have to learn to live with imperfect human government?

There is something in the human heart that longs for honest government. Maybe if we just had new leadership things would be better.  There is a longing for a system we can trust. 

The good news is that there is something better.  There really is a kingdom coming that is entirely free from corruption.  We can't expect honest human government, but God gives us this promise in the Bible, "During the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or given to another group of people. This kingdom will crush all the other kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will continue forever". Daniel 2:44

Jesus said in John 18:36, “My kingdom does not belong to this world".  "God's blessings, which cannot be destroyed or be spoiled or lose their beauty, are kept in heaven for you".  1 Peter 1:4

"So let us be thankful, because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We should worship God in a way that pleases him with reverence and respect".  Hebrews 12:28

I'm ready for a change in government.   I'm ready for a kingdom that can't be shaken.  

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I come quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  Revelation 22:20

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