Sermons

Summary: Christians are taught to treat the vulnerable with compassion and with generosity. The study is based upon the practised instituted by Moses for Israel, which practise is continued among the churches to this day.

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.” [1]

Among the sins that cry out to heaven, one egregious sin seems to be overlooked—mistreating the vulnerable. Thoughtful Christians must wonder whether this particular sin invites divine intervention in this day. Politicians appear determined to encourage sloth as they constantly seek to move the nation toward socialistic policies. And the churches have drawn back from true charity, in great measure because they are already watching a massive redistribution of wealth as governments take money from wage earners and give it to those they decide to “help.” Of course, it costs a lot to redistribute these funds, so the system is by its very nature inefficient.

I do not believe that everyone who thinks he is poor, is poor. Moreover, I am not certain that many who place themselves in voluntary poverty qualify as poor. Such people may be impoverished, but they do have the capacity to change their situation. Those who are suffering penury because of their own sloth don’t deserve our pity. Christians are taught, “Even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living” [2 THESSALONIANS 3:10-12].

Bible readers know that this teaching is based upon instruction delivered to the same congregation in an earlier missive when the Apostle instructed all who follow the Master, “We urge you, brothers … to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” [1 THESSALONIANS 4:10-12].

Nevertheless, there are vast numbers of vulnerable people who seem hidden from our eyes. The assembly of the faithful must be conscientious to show mercy to those who are truly vulnerable. The congregations of the righteous must avoid becoming heartless toward those who are truly needy. This means that the people of God must be discerning, must act with discretion to ensure that they honour the Risen Saviour not just by avoiding mistreating the vulnerable, but by showing compassion to those who are truly in need.

WHO ARE THE VULNERABLE? Moses identifies three groups as the vulnerable—the sojourner, the widow, and the orphan. These three groups were vulnerable in that ancient world, and they are no less vulnerable in this day. The sojourner appears to be what we might identify as refugees today. Not everyone who claims refugee status is a refugee; however, there are people who are in desperate need of refuge. Such people merit our compassion. Others that are said to be vulnerable are the widows and orphans. Each of these groups are with us even to this day, and each of them deserve our protection. Conscientious Christians will seek to provide succor to the vulnerable, even as we seek to winnow the self-seeking drones from those with genuine needs. This is not to say that other groups might not be vulnerable, but there can assuredly be no argument that these three classes of individuals are inherently vulnerable.

It will no doubt prove beneficial for us to consider the needs of each of these groups in their turn. Sojourners is the initial group that was mentioned in the text today. As already mentioned, when we speak of sojourners in the contemporary context, we are likely speaking of refugees. The western nations have witnessed an influx of refugees that continues to this present hour. The current arrival of refugees arriving in North America is not the first wave of arrivals. One need but recall the massive migrations of Irish refugees during the potato famines of an earlier century or the arrival of Dutch immigrants who were fleeing the devastation of the Second World War. In more recent years, war and civil instability in the nations of the Middle East have created a challenge for the nations of the west. Canada enjoys a measure of stability, and thus we appear as a safe haven for people fleeing war, just as we appear to be a land of opportunity for people fleeing poverty. This flight to apparent safety and to opportunity has created some serious problems for governments, and the influx of people without shared experiences presents a challenge to citizens of the nations to which these refugees are fleeing.

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