22Don't take advantage
of the poor
or cheat them in court.
23The Lord is their defender,
and what you do to them,
he will do to you.
There are some things that we do “just because we can.” Freedom of choice is such a core value in our culture. We are libertarian in nature. We fervently believe that the only thing that should limit our choices is if our action adversely effects or hurts another person. But here is where I am pretty naïve – my actions almost always impact another person. So when I read something like, “Don’t take advantage of the poor or cheat them in court” (v 22), I may be tempted to think that the words don’t apply to me. After all, when was the last time I exploited someone in court or robbed a poor person?
I certainly need to ask myself if I am doing either of these things directly to the poor or needy. But I can certainly think a little deeper too. Are my actions indirectly leading to the poor and needy being robbed and exploited? Do my purchases force the poor and needy to work in oppressive conditions for slave-like wages? As an employer do I pay my employees fairly? Or if fair market value is still an unlivable wage, could I be called to go beyond market value to generosity? Or am I known as a person who gives/offers the bare minimum that I can get away with?
And this of course could apply far beyond the economic sphere. How generous am I with praise and encouragement? Do I oppress others with a burden of guilt and shame? Or do I find ways to release them from emotional bondage? Am I slow to forgive and quick to remind someone that they have hurt me and that they are still guilty and unforgiven? Any time that I take advantage of someone, when I make them poorer in any way, I am setting myself up against God, for he is their defender. So just because I can exercise my will over another doesn’t mean I should. For I could be making an enemy of the One who always can, for he is omnipotent and I am not.
Lord, make me a generous person. Move me to release people from poverty and need, no matter what type of poverty and need that is. May your Spirit show me where I am holding others in bondage to guilt and shame. May my life choices never even indirectly cause someone else’s poverty or need. Show me your way of generosity, your redemptive omnipotence and cause me to use my power to bless. Amen.