Exodus 22:21 You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. 25 If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
Here is a passage which gives us insight into the mind of God concerning the Kingdom of Priests that He would establish. God designed His people to NOT be oppressive in nature. He commands them NOT to try to make money off of those around them. He commands those with more to NOT hold it over the heads of those who have less. Three overarching principles stand out to me in this passage.
#1- There would be different classes of people within God’s people, but there was to be no favoritism or oppression based on these differences. God wasn’t setting up a communistic society which would do away with personal property. God also wasn’t setting up a socialist type of system which would try to equal out everyone’s finances. The poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners would exist in this society and have less than your average citizen. The solution was not for the one with more to give up their personal property for the one with less. Borrowing and lending would be the way that those with less would make due. But the restrictions on the lender prohibit them getting even richer than they already are. The point of lending to the poor would be to assist them through trying circumstances. The point was not to eliminate the poor by trying to make them rich, but to embrace the poor as brothers and sisters.
#2- These commands are in addition to the laws which already made mistreatment, wrongdoing, and physical harm illegal.
Apparently God anticipates our prideful behavior. God knows our propensity to lift ourselves up against those who have less. Even though mistreatment was already counted as a sin, God doubles the offense if it is against someone in a different social class. We see this in our society. As great as the U. S. of A. is, we tend to disparage foreigners, poor folk, and other races. I have had to work very hard at erasing prejudice from my being. As a mail carrier, I deliver those checks to people on welfare. I see those who abuse the system. Have you ever encountered someone in the supermarket who you thought was abusing the welfare system? How did you feel about that person? How would you feel if you were on welfare? There is the tendency within us to judge those who have less. But beware! God has commanded a second curse against those who sin against the poor, widows, orphans, or those of another ethnic background. It was already a sin, but now with these commands, God has made it a double sin.
#3- God Himself promises to exact vengeance upon those who commit these wrongs against those who cannot defend themselves.
Twice in this passage God tells us that He will hear the cry of the one who is mistreated. The reason that He will hear the cry is traced to His character. He is compassionate. When He hears the cry of the helpless, He states that His wrath will burn. He promises to exact vengeance upon their behalf to the point of death. Those who oppress the poor are worthy of the death penalty. In taking vengeance, God will make the estate of the one who oppressed to be just like the poor that he was oppressing. His wife will be a widow, his children will be orphans, and his household will be poor. I wonder if Mary had this passage in mind when she spoke Luke 1:53.
When God gave the command for every man to give atonement money as a ransom for his soul, He gave this instruction.
The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives.
God’s aim was to create a society or community, where all would be considered equals, no matter how much or how little anyone had. There were to be no feelings of superiority based on personal wealth. Every soul had the same worth to God. A rich man would not be allowed to give more for his soul, and a poor man would not be allowed to give less.
I expect the world to be worldly. But if Christians could just wrap their minds around these teachings, we could revolutionize the way the world looks at Christianity. Once I give up my claim to any social status, I become free to minister to anyone in any circumstance. I love that lyric in "O Holy Night" that says, "Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother and in His name all oppression shall cease." Now the person who wrote that clearly understood these principles.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman