We were looking at Mark 5:1-20 yesterday evening and during the interactive session on what we might learn from this, the question of what Jesus was doing with the pigs came up.
You'll know the story. Jesus is confronted by a demonized man who is besieged by a legion of evil spirits. They beg to be sent into a nearby herd of pigs rather than the abyss to await judgement. Jesus obliges. What's going on?
I suggested that through this action Jesus is passing a stern comment on the business-as-usual approach adopted by the townsfolk - and probably its leading citizens. The demonized man had been marginalized by this community that was making a good living through rearing pigs for sale, no doubt, to the sizable gentile populations of the region - not least the Roman army garrisoned around the area. He was chained and shoved out of the town into a graveyard.
Jesus is suggesting that the town had a duty of care to this man that they neglected while they got on with their money-making venture. So, in an act of judgment on business as usual, Jesus frees the demonized man and interrupts the town's casual reliance on cash.
Afterwards, someone asked me what the town's people could have done, since the demonized man was fearful and uncontrollable. That's a good question. But, it seems to me, that Jesus is saying that they should have done something more than cast him out, chain him up and get on with their lives. Care has a cost attached to it and part of that cost is that there'll be a shift of priorities from doing things for us to recognising the interests of those in need in our community.
I wonder if reading this story in the light of our current economic woes might help us reorient our values around caring for the vulnerable rather than maximising our own self interest.