Summary: A holy walk is best seen in our attitudes to others.
A CALL TO PRACTICAL HOLINESS
In the midst of Jesus’ best-known ethical sermon, the Lord taught the foundational motive for right Christian living: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48).
In many respects Leviticus 19 is a reshaping, retelling and applying of the ten commandments. Each of the commandments (except the first) is covered, with reference to the living-out of God ‘s laws in Israel’s life. The first commandment is assumed throughout, and governs all the others: because “I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).
The chosen section deals with certain ethical matters, framed for the agricultural, economic, social, judicial, and neighbourly aspects of daily living. The refrain throughout is “I am the LORD”, or “I am the LORD your God”. A holy walk with God is best seen in our attitudes to others.
To city dwellers today, it may seem quite quaint to speak of leaving the corners of one’s field unharvested, and not going back over the job to pick up any missed produce (Leviticus 19:9-10) - but the underlying principle of care is universal. The most beautiful illustration of this practice is found in the book of Ruth: where Boaz would have his reapers drop whole handfuls ‘on purpose’ (Ruth 2:15-16) to provide for Naomi, a neighbour who had fallen on hard times; and her daughter-in-law Ruth, who was a “stranger” in the land.
This is not just a random jumble of commandments: the following word is “You shall not steal” (Leviticus 19:11), and is not unrelated to our attitude towards those ‘less fortunate’ than ourselves. Failing to allow this provision for life’s victims robs them of the dignity of being able to provide for themselves out of the abundance of the generous. Withholding charity is like robbing the poor (cf. Proverbs 22:22).
Such failure is in its turn a dishonest act which fails to give God the praise for what we have by sharing His bounty with others. This in turn dishonours the name of God (cf. Leviticus 19:12).
In a society where wages were paid daily (cf. Matthew 20:2), with a possible ‘national minimum wage’ which would provide a daily meal for a worker and his family, withholding wages overnight could be disastrous for the labourer. Interestingly here, the employee is to be reckoned as a “neighbour” by the employer (Leviticus 19:13). Surely such consideration would radicalise the workplace today?
There is a duty of care outlined in Leviticus 19:14 - “Do not curse the deaf (who cannot hear what you are saying); and do not put a stumbling block in front of the blind.” I wonder if there is a deeper meaning here on the positive - or even spiritual - side, too: something along the lines of ‘open your mouth for the dumb’ (Proverbs 31:8)? Help the deaf comprehend, assist the blind in the way, perhaps?