By Sam E. Stone
Compassion is a key part of justice. In the Lord’s directions for how the people of Israel should live, justice is clearly an inherent ingredient. This is emphasized in the first five books of the Old Testament, known as “the Law.”
An interesting literary device in today’s text is the repetition of the phrases “I am the Lord” and “I am the Lord your God.” In the 37 verses of Leviticus 19, the two expressions occur 15 times. The chapter begins with God telling Moses to instruct the people, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (19:2). God’s justice is reflected in the lives of his people.
How to Treat One Another
Those who would please God must demonstrate concern and consideration for others. It is not enough simply to refrain from injuring or mistreating another person; instead the child of God has an obligation to “look out for them,” making their lives better wherever possible. In the Old Testament world, most people supported themselves by living off the land. God directed the harvesters to leave some gleanings for the poor and the alien. This would apply whether the crops were from a vineyard or an olive plantation (Deuteronomy 24:20). The book of Ruth explains exactly how this process was carried out (see Ruth 2). God cares about those who have little of this world’s goods.
Honesty is also required of the Lord’s followers. Verses 11 and 12 are based on the eighth and third commandments (Exodus 20). Scripture makes it clear that proper treatment of others includes more than not stealing from them or telling an outright lie. Instead, all deceit is forbidden. Misrepresenting the truth is never right. When Dean Seth Wilson of Ozark Christian College was asked about an individual who had told lies about the school, brother Wilson did not slander him. Instead he said, “Well, let’s just say that he was very economical with the truth!”
To swear falsely is to profane that sacred name—“the Lord.” God’s name means simply “I am.” All who want to know the one true and living God should be able to see him reflected in those who are his followers. This can happen when the Lord’s people neither defraud nor rob their neighbor.
The rule of treating others fairly even specified that a daily worker was to be paid at the end of his work shift, not kept waiting till the next day for his money. The employer was not to keep his wages overnight but to pay him at the end of the workday. In the New Testament the proper treatment of others is alluded to as well. God is especially concerned about those who have disabilities (like the deaf and the blind). These individuals must not be ridiculed or abused (see Deuteronomy 27:18). The Lord’s people are to help those who cannot help themselves. Scripture pictures God as a loving Father who is concerned about those considered “the least of these” in the world (see Matthew 25:40).
God sees all that goes on and he will be the perfect judge. His example of fair treatment is a model of what his children must show. Do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Slander comes from the lips of one who does not regard the Lord properly. What is spoken from the mouth, however, begins in the heart. Jesus himself emphasized this principle (see Matthew 5:21-26). The Lord’s intent is clear: “Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Here is the first time this important command is stated in the Bible. Later, of course, it received prominent emphasis by Jesus (see Matthew 19:19). He even used the name given to foreigners in his day—“Samaritan”—to illustrate the scope of who should be considered one’s neighbor (Luke 10:33).
How to Treat the Alien
Do not mistreat . . . the alien living with you. Moses records this guideline in explaining the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 5:14, 15). If tempted to mistreat a foreigner, the Israelites were reminded that they themselves had a long and difficult captivity in Egypt. There they were the aliens! They learned all too well how difficult it could be for these individuals. In all of their dealings with all others, honesty was to prevail. Everything is summed up in God’s directive: “Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.”
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.