Reading: Exodus 23
(Context: Law, Law, & more Law. We will talk briefly about this here, perhaps more later. The Laws here are detailing general rules & regulations for daily living, justice, & festivals)
Exodus is similar in many ways to Numbers & Leviticus in that certain parts can be an incredible drag to read.All of God’s Word is useful, clearly, yet some parts have one or two important parts, others have hundreds. All useful, some parts more than others. Now, before you get upset with me and tell me that all is just as valuable, tell me: is “how to deal with lepers” really just as important as “salvation by grace”. Jesus made the distinction Himself, when He stated that the Law had hierarchical value, meaning some parts outweigh others:
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
That being said, the Law does have value. It has two key characteristics of value to today’s church:
1. It shows God’s perfection, holiness, justice, mercy, & absolute moral separation from mankind. It shows us God’s mind.
2. It shows man’s inability to be fully holy, perfect, just, merciful, & morally identical to God. It shows man’s absolute corruption.
When more is added to this list, it simply does not work. The Law shows us God’s perfection & our utter sinfulness, & then does nothing to help us out of the hell destined for us.
In my reading of Exodus 23 this morning, I stumbled upon a fascinating little passage, that shows us God’s mind.
“You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.” (Exodus 23:2-3)
God wants absolute justice, because He is a just judge. God does not do evil, He does not accuse us falsely, nor does He side with the “majority vote”. These are all fascinating in an of themselves, but not nearly as the last little phrase: God is not partial to the poor over the rich when it comes to justice
This is a crucial distinction of modern “goodness”, contradicting one of the central claims of Socialism & Communism. Sinful humans of the “enlightened” in this generation have a tendency to think that the poor & forgotten would be righteous & honest if they had the money & power of the corrupt scoundrels already with it.
In Socialistic countries, Bolivia being an example, it is almost considered a crime to be rich. It seems to imply you did something wrong or evil to get rich. Even Christians struggle with this idea, seemingly ignoring the abundant wealth of some of the greatest men in God’s “Hall of Fame”, such as Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, & Solomon.
Does this concept exist in America? I think it does, as policy makers have often spoken about the importance of taxing the rich & letting the poor off-the-hook, where loopholes abound. Now, to be fair, I was a beneficiary of such help, & in most instances I think it is good to help & be generous to the poor, forgotten, & helpless. Lets be very clear on this point: the Bible in the Law is full of instruction on generosity towards the foreigner, the immigrant, the widow, and the orphan. Such a teaching is also repeated in the New Testament:
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)
Now, why then do I bring up Exodus 23:3? Being poor doesn’t make you more deserving of justice. Absolute justice is static, and all men must be judged by the same plumb line, God’s weights are tilted more towards one & less towards another. Is this not why “Lady Liberty” has her eyes blindfolded?
The poor is not inherently more righteous or just than the rich man; there are abundant bad apples in each basket. The sin is not to be rich, it is to be greedy. The root of all kinds of evil is the love of money, Paul said (1 Tim. 6:10). Wealth has little to nothing to do with moral uprightness.
People must be taken individually, therefore, not in the category of rich or poor. All deserve justice, whether that be good or bad for them.
“You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit.” (Exodus 23:6)
God does this here. First He says not to do any favors to the poor when it comes to justice, yet He also says not to pervert it. What would our justice system be like if this was actually held to?
To conclude, this law, formed in God’s mind, is not about greed, or about the “evil” of being rich, but about justice. All men & women are created equal, and all deserve equal justice among mankind — this is why we reject slavery, abortion, corrupt judges, hatred towards immigrants, etc.