The Hebrew Testament for today comes from Exodus 22:20-26:
Thus says the LORD: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”
In today’s environment and with our nation’s presidential election coming up in just a few days, this reading really hit home for me. “Close the border, build a wall, deport everyone who wasn’t born here, keep our country pure.” To those who really feel this way I have only one thing to say to you: READ ABOVE!!!! From God’s lips, “You shall not molest or oppress an alien.” He is not talking about little green men from other planets (however, when they do finally show up here on earth – this will still apply). “Aliens” here is a reference to peoples from other lands. People seeking a better life for their family and their future. What would Jesus do? He would welcome all people of any color, creed, and ethnicity to our land without any second thought or reservation. Our forefathers were aliens in this land at one time and were welcomed by the original inhabitants.
Regarding the widows and orphans: they are apparently incredibly special to the Lord. He commands us to take care of them and protect them from harm. Widows and orphans refer to the weak and frail among us. Orphans does not just mean fatherless or motherless, they are the ones who wander aimlessly without hope and guidance. Be their guide and direct them to the Lord, witness to them, preach to them, feed them, shelter them, and love them unconditionally. Leviticus 25:35-37 tells us : “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.” If you lend money to your neighbor, do not demand interest from him. Allow him to repay the money without hounding him and browbeating him. On the same level, if you accept your neighbors’ cloak as collateral, return it to him and trust in him to repay the loan. In Biblical times the cloak was one of the most important possessions a person could own. In many cases it was their only shelter and covering. If not returned to the owner, they could freeze to death and hence never be able to repay the loan. Again, the Lord says that if one cries out He will hear him because He is compassionate. Proverbs 19:17 says “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” The Lord will compensate you for your generosity and giving while taking care of His children.
What would it take for our society to follow these guidelines laid out by our Lord? How difficult would it be to pick up a few cans of food next time you are grocery shopping and donate that food to a local food pantry? Would it be such an imposition to clean out your closet and donate a couple of old blankets to the local homeless shelter? Could you spend a few hours one weekend a month visiting shut-ins or ministering at the local homeless shelter or battered women’s shelter. The consequences of failure to do these simple things are outlined in Matthew 25, 31:46 as follows:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[a] you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Take a little bit of time from your busy day and life, follow the above guidelines for the sake of your eternal life.
Heavenly father give us the knowledge to know when to look beyond politics and prejudice, so that we may love one another the way you have commanded. Help us to understand how proud you will be when we do treat others as you would treat them. Amen.