Summary: As representatives of our Lord and Savior, we want to reflect the ethical behavior that should characterize God’s people. Today we will look at two ethics we need to embrace.
The Unfortunate, the Hothead, and the Believer
1. A rabbinic story tells about a group of people traveling in a boat. One passenger takes out a drill and begins drilling a hole under his seat. The other passengers, quite understandably, complain that this action may cause the boat to sink. "Why should this bother you?" this man responds, I am only drilling under my own seat." The others retort, "But the water will rise up and flood the ship for all of us!" (Vayikra Rabbah 4:6). The moral of this story is clear: one person's destructive action may literally drown the entire community. But we might add that the inverse is also true: a single positive change may transform an entire community. Thus, the alleviation of poverty, even in the smallest detail, may help the community as a whole to flourish. [My Jewish Learning]
2. After seeing what happened in Ferguson, MO, we can pick up two elements that created these riots: poverty and uncontrolled anger.
3. Most poor people are civil. And some rich people are hot heads.
4. So how do we — as believers — view poverty and anger on a personal daily basis?
Main Idea: As representatives of our Lord and Savior, we want to reflect the ethical behavior that should characterize God’s people. Today we will look at two ethics we need to embrace.
I. Treating the UNFORTUNATE and Vulnerable with Respect (22-23, 26-27)
• Wolves or lions will tackle the young or elderly animals (wildebeest)
• This is okay in the animal world, but human beings are wrong to take advantage of other vulnerable human beings.
A. We must respect the DIGNITY of the poor and vulnerable
1. Deuteronomy 15:11a reminds us that, “… there will never cease to be poor in the land.” For some, poverty is a permanent way of life…lot/inescapable.
2. Although Proverbs reminds us that much poverty is a result of foolishness, irresponsibility, laziness, or lack of thinking ahead — it also reminds us that some people who are not foolish or irresponsible can end up poor.
3. Gambling, drugs, alcohol, violence, promiscuity — all these nurture the poverty cycle, and it can be hard to separate the poverty that flows from sin in contrast from the poverty that comes from circumstances beyond control.
4. The number one cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is unpaid medical bills.
5. What did people do 100 years ago? They died in their forties.
6. Many scams target the elderly and poor
7. What I say to scams: “If you repent and believe in Jesus, God can even forgive a hacker” or “a scammer.”
8. Con men are good; they are better with people who think they can tell
B. We must not “legally” rob the poor through unethical LITIGATION
1. Because something is legal does not mean right; Rashi comments, “Do not rob him because you see that he is poor and has no strength to resist you.”
2. Litigation is certainly appropriate if someone has broken the law
3. Reason many believers opposed the lottery: poor people throw money away
4. Promises of fast easy money — like gambling — entice the impoverished
C. Crushing suggests VIOLENCE administered at the gate (legal)
1. Proper justice involves punishing the guilty, clearing the innocent
Proverbs 17:15, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.”
2. America: we try to provide decent public defender
3. Best lawyer often wins, while many given cursory attention
D. Abusing the poor is a great way to get God AGAINST you
James 5:1-6 might be a midrash based upon these verses:
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
E. Balance: Do not to CO-SIGN for a poor person (26-27)
1. Helping the poor we know is a virtue; but within boundaries
2. Do not cosign for an organization: A couple cong. retirement, bankrupt
3. Never loan someone money unless you can get by without
4. I know two successful men brought to bankruptcy by “partners”
II. Controlling ANGER (24-25)