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MOSES ON TREATMENT OF THE POOR PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

MOSES ON TREATMENT OF THE POOR

By Jim Jordal

"You shall not take advantage of any widow or fatherless child. If you take advantage of them at all, and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath will grow hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.  If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor; neither shall you charge him interest.  If you take your neighbor's garment as collateral, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down,  for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What would he sleep in? It will happen, when he cries to me, that I will hear, for I am gracious."

Moses to Israel, Exodus 22:22-27 (WEB)

Most of us revere Moses as both a prophet of the Lord and a powerful, successful civil leader. So why don’t we pay more attention to what he said? We venerate the Ten Commandments brought down from the mountain by Moses, yet ignore most of the remainder of Moses’ teachings. But the Ten Commandments (considered by many scholars as the basis for Western civilization) are only a small portion of the prescriptions for righteous, just government and personal relationships found in the Mosaic Code.

The problem seems to be that we insist on combining the moral and ethical teachings of the Mosaic Code with the ceremonial and sacrificial law, mistakenly believing that Christ superceded both. Yes, the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary did replace the sacrificial and ceremonial ordinances, but what about the ethical and moral law centering on right relationships between individual citizens and between government and its people? That law has never been superceded, either by Christ or by any human legal or societal stratagem.

So what do you think Moses (and God) would say about the multitude of modern strategies designed to take advantage of the most vulnerable among us—widows, orphans, and people poor through no fault of their own? What would he say about home foreclosures, unscrupulous debt collection agencies, loan sharks, payday loans, and the many other usually legal, but actually predatory financial practices? All these use debt as a means for further oppressing the poor and vulnerable, who have little or no knowledge of the niceties whereby they are stripped of their dignity and what little wealth they have.

Even though it may often seem otherwise, God does hear the pitiful cries of vulnerable and helpless victims of the organized system of economic and financial oppression and repression that now preys upon the voiceless and helpless of the earth. He hears, and He answers, although again we fail to perceive His reply and the message He sends. In the passage above God says His anger and retribution take the form of death by the sword for the oppressors and their cohorts. Consider that historically oppression and tyranny have often ended in armed rebellion and revolution, with the result that the rich and powerful systems of domination are overthrown, often with great loss of life, including the lives of the oppressors. It’s just as God said it would be.

Going a bit further, what would Moses say about those who oppress not only the poor, but also virtually everyone else? I’m speaking of the geniuses of Wall Street and their cohorts who sidetracked economic growth, virtually collapsed the economy, and destroyed the livelihoods of millions of Americans, not to mention the damage done to social and economic systems in less developed nations.

For that matter, what do you think Jesus would say concerning both these forms of evil? His views were forcefully expressed in His first sermon (Luke 4:1619) in the synagogue at Nazareth. Quoting from the prophet Isaiah, He revealed His anointing by God to preach the gospel to the poor, healing to the brokenhearted, liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed, and a proclamation of the acceptable (Jubilee) year of the Lord to everyone.

It is to our great loss that we so often spiritualize, individualize, and futurize the teachings of Christ, thereby losing most of their application to the problems of real people living in the real world. Jesus taught how we should live in the here and now, not the then and there. He dealt with life as it was, and the reality and power of His way becomes lessened when we consider and comprehend only His promises of future deliverance and glory in the hereafter. The hereafter is real, but the present also needs serious thought.