You Shall Not

When we think of laws, we typically things in terms of legality. But when we think of commands, the sense becomes one of obedience or disobedience. Even though we obey laws, and there can be civil disobedience, we still don’t think of commands in terms of legal or illegal, only obedience and disobedience.

This section of Exodus has changed. It changed prior to this, around verse 18, but it was subtle, and the real change becomes obvious here, in verses 21 through 24. This feels more like the Ten Commandments, especially the first four:

“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Exodus 22:21-24 NASB

It’s a command with an explanation, and then an added penalty. The penalty isn’t from the “elders”, or a court, the penalty is a promise of God of harm to disobedient. Ordinarily, we like promises of God. We make books of them, meditate on them, and pray them, as if they give us control over God. But do we include these sorts of promises, the ones that bring a curse upon the disobedient?

Sojourners, widows, and the fatherless (orphans) are the three primary classes of powerless people in Israel. They were powerless, so God takes up their cause. They are unable to defend themselves, so God defends them. They have no resources, so God becomes their resource. Or that is how it is supposed to work. In our day, those preying on the disadvantaged are many, and take many forms. One of the worst categories is made up of drug dealers. The epidemic of drug use among homeless people is guaranteed to keep them homeless and powerless.

But there are other classes of powerless people. There are children who are among the most vulnerable. There are those who suffer with emotional and mental problems. And there are those who have so compounded the mistakes in their lives, they see no hope, the hopeless. All of these classes of powerless people have enormous vulnerabilities, and each of them are plagued by our society, our culture, and many of us. The answer to these problems aren’t obvious, easy, or quick. Therefore many simply avoid them.

But the battle isn’t just for these people, it’s against their oppressors. And their oppressors can seem very powerful, they can seem right or just. Their oppressors can be those who believe they are trying to help. The problem isn’t solved by physical changes, although those help. The problem is spiritual, and ultimately is the same problem we all have, separation from our Creator. To fix that, they need what we need, our Savior.

It may be, that the good news of a Savior can’t get through the noise of their physical or emotional need. So, those do need to be addressed, as part of the process of delivering the message of Jesus as their Savior. And then, addressing those needs has to continue as they learn about life with Jesus as their Savior. This is part of the reason Jesus created churches, to meet these needs as He did in His ministry, to see people as He saw them, and have compassion as He had, and still has.

This “law” or commandment is still valid today, as is the curse for disobedience. The phrase, so popular in the middle of the 20th Century is still true, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. Those oppressing the disadvantaged will become them, eventually. It’s a promise of our Creator. Even it that’s not us, we still need to take steps to join with our Savior in reaching out to them.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation


Passion Week XIII

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.  And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.  And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”  (Luke 21:1-4 NASB)

The Widow’s Mite!  It’s been used in “Stewardship Sermons” for ages.  In Mark, Jesus goes and intentionally sits and waits for her to give.  In Matthew, this account is missing, as it is in John.  Here in Luke, Jesus looks up.  It’s as if, in the midst of all He is saying and doing, He remembers, “Oh right, the widow!”.  He looks up and points her out.

There are many interesting things about this account, not the least of which is the question of what happened to the widow?  But another is whether anyone else noticed.  The chances were high that she was easy to spot for what she was.  She probably looked the part since she had reached that point only after selling everything else.  Would anyone else have spotted the unaccompanied woman in old worn clothes?

But what sort of person, or what drives a person to the point where putting the last two coins in the treasury is good idea?  How does that happen?  When does that happen?  In a sense we might think she’s given up, reached a point where there is no point, so might as well give the rest.

But think about what she’s done.  She’s given the last of what she had to the One she figured was responsible.  All things come from God, good or bad.  Yet, regardless of her circumstances, she gives to the One having landed her in them.  The God of her fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has taken her husband, left her without children to support her, without land, without legal protection, and without finances.  And to Whom does she give her last two coins?  This God of her fathers.

How easy is it for me to give in to my circumstances, blaming and resenting my Father in Heaven?  How cheaply do I sell my joy and contentment?  For what will I trade the blessings of being a child of the King?  She held on through everything, and gave right to the end of everything she had.  I have much and give out of my abundance, and whine like a mule because my job is boring.  Really?

The thing distracting me is me.  What gets my view off my Savior and on my circumstances is my discomfort, my boredom, my frustration with management from whom I feel disconnected and marginalized.  Ah, poor blessed employed whiner, such a pity he’s being ignored by people he doesn’t know.  Funny how I have such a problem getting people to come over to my pity party.  I probably should have had cake and balloons.

So different from a widow with two coppers.  Maybe if I grew up to be like her my life would be more of a blessing to others.  I can’t imagine her mindset, which is really dangerous.  I should be living it, forget imagining it.  I’m going to force my focus on Jesus.  Today I will practice the presence of my Savior.  Booyah!

What’s your view of our Master through the fence?