Summary: We are told to be fair in all our dealings. What does that look like; how do I go about it?
September 9, 2001
The Bible says (Leviticus 19.18) that we must love our neighbor. The two questions that immediately come into focus are:
a) What is it like to love a neighbor (be fair)?
b) How do I go about doing just that?
Even Christians have trouble getting along with their neighbors. A little girl wrote a note to her pastor, Dear Preacher, I heard you say we should love our enemies. I am only six and do not have any yet. I hope to have some when I am seven. Your friend, Love, Amy.
Who can argue that today the term good neighbor is often a contradiction in terms? We have a Fortress mentality in our society that separates people.
Barricaded in our air-conditioned forts, we get our information via the tube and newspapers. We even shop for some things by TV. Isolation-itis is a kind of
modern day leprosy.
Two texts address the main questions, Leviticus 25.14 gives the principle,
And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour,
or buyest ought of thy neighbour¡¦s hand,
ye shall not oppress one another.
Too many people ignore their Christianity in the marketplace. Two men owned competitive grocery stores on the same street. They had frequent price wars over eggs. One week George lowered his price on eggs by one-half. The next day Harry met the price. On the third day George lowered his price by another third. Harry followed suit in a few days. This pattern continued for about three weeks. Finally George went to see Harry. He said, Listen, Harry; every time I lower my price, you match it a day later. We are both losing a lot of money, selling our eggs at a loss like this. Harry said, Who¡¦s losing money, George? I¡¦ve been buying my eggs from you!
In the ancient Hebrew culture God had given the Levitical law for the purpose of making certain there was no question where He stood regarding the treatment of the poor. There was a law of Jubilee. Every 50th year, lands sold out of families, especially because of debt, were to be returned to the original owner.
One writer sums up this practice:
The main purpose of these laws is to prevent the utter ruin of debtors....about once in any man¡¦s lifetime the slate was wiped clean. Everyone had the
chance to make a fresh start.
(*Gordon J. Wenham, Leviticus, Grand Rapids,
William B. Eerdmans Co., 1979, 317.)
The prophet Amos had something to say about oppression of neighbors, Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes; Amos 2:6
Isaiah also despised the high handed treatment of the poor: Woe unto them that join house to house,
that lay field to field, till there be no place,
that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! Isaiah 5:8
Good neighbors are fair in their dealings with everyone, not just the poor.
The second text, Romans 12, gives us the how to of being fair to a neighbor. Let¡¦s look at the nuts and bolts of being a Good neighbor...
#1. Humble Enough To Recognize Others¡¦ Worth
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. Romans 12:3
Paul was specifically talking to believers when he encouraged humility when it comes to the value of other human beings. We are a body, and the eye is no more useful than the foot.
You¡¦ve heard of the two ducks that were getting ready to fly south. A frog, wanting to go with them, but lacking transportation, convinced them to each take the end of a string. The ducks flew toward the frog, draping the string like a clothesline. The frog made a mighty jump, clamping-on the string with his mouth. It was a first class way to fly.
However, just over Pittsburgh, a passing pigeon saw the trio flying at twelve hundred feet, and questioned, Hey, that¡¦s pretty clever. Who thought of that? Said the boastful little frog, MEeeeeeeeeee.
In God¡¦s economy, it doesn¡¦t matter who gets the credit. God¡¦s family is a team that doesn¡¦t need any stars. Paul and Brenda, were watching their grandson, Scott, play basketball. Scott plays center. He is tall and handles the ball well. That night, every time Scott got the ball, he looked around for someone to pass to instead of shooting.
Later, Paul asked his grandson, Scott, why don¡¦t you shoot when you have a good shot? Scott thought for a moment and replied, When you throw the ball out to one of the other guys and he makes two points, then you run down the court giving high fives¡Xthat¡¦s the real thrill. That¡¦s the name of the game.