“I will come to judge you. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers, lying witnesses, and those who cheat workers out of their wages and oppress widows and orphans. I will also testify against those who deprive foreigners of their rights. None of them fear me,” says the LORD of Armies. Mal 3:5
It’s scary to think of being on trial before the Almighty God. At this trial, God himself testifies against people. Yikes! And he does it without delay, without continuances, like we can push for in the court system today.
What does God bear witness against? Largely against mistreating others.
And while none of us may have stuck it to a widow or an immigrant lately, this verse makes it apparent that how we treat one another is uber serious to God.
Because what God is looking for is those who revere him enough to see that they have an obligation towards their fellow man. As God is committed to us, he wants us to be committed to one another.
Here is how Biblical scholars define righteousness: “God’s righteousness can be understood as God’s faithfulness to his people, where he fulfills his obligations to them. . . righteousness is also understood as God’s faithfulness to fulfill His obligations to human beings and His creation because as creator He has a relationship with them.” (Rupen Das)
God sees himself as having a responsibility towards people. As children of this same God, surely we should see that we also have a responsibility to our fellow human beings.
Look how God spelled this out from olden times:
”When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)
Leviticus 19 goes on to relate a whole slew of things not to do. I’m abridging the passage here:
DO NOT: steal, lie, deceive one another, defraud or rob your neighbor, hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight, curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, pervert justice, show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, go about spreading slander among your people, do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life, hate a fellow Israelite in your heart, seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.“ That’s the bottom line. It always has been.
“But who is my neighbor?” we want to ask, just as the experts in the law inquired of Jesus in Luke 10. We’re surrounded and overwhelmed by more needs than we could ever address.
Ken and I watched a movie over the weekend, “Of Mind and Music.” It was about a neurologist in New Orleans who took some time off to grieve the loss of his mother. As he walked through the city, he came across a female street musician/singer who was starting to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s. The neurologist ended up taking this woman in his own house to care for her, and then finding an assisted living placement for her. When someone asked him why he was doing this for a random person on the streets, he answered, “Because I can.”
Instead of being overwhelmed, let’s ask, who CAN we help? Who is in our path at this moment?
Ken and I went to a funeral on Sunday for the great aunt of our daughter in law. We heard different people share about this special woman. One was her neighbor, who talked about how much their relationship had meant to her over the years. They were like family. The neighbor’s children were always over at the woman’s house, and always came home with cookies or pieces of cornbread. As the neighbor sat at her friend’s deathbed, she told her over and over again how grateful she was for her.
All of us have people “next door.” They’re not all going to become our best buds, but some of them could become a blessing to us. And we could become a blessing to them. I know this has been true for me. My Latin neighbor down the street, Dee, is a great example. We get together for coffee, visit when we’re outside, and chat on the phone. Several times she’s brought her husband over to help with issues with our house. I had a yard sale, and she came and sat next to me and supported me. She has told me several times that she is thankful for our friendship.
But even though I know this, I still I get tired and busy, and I stop reaching out.
One thing that has helped me as I’ve been thinking about this is to remember that I have the Spirit, an actual piece of God, in me as I walk around. It was incredible that God became flesh. It’s just as incredible that God dwells in us. When I interact with people, I bring God in contact with others. The Spirit wants to talk with people. The Spirit wants to love them through me.
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. I John 4:12
The other thing I am learning is the importance of humility. I really think one of the things that separates us as human beings is our pride. We can’t help thinking we are more important than that other person. We don’t realize that we all exist by God’s mercy.
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
I think the story of the unmerciful servant reflects the way God has always thought:
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’” Matt 18:32-33.
God’s given us mercy. That’s why we treat others well.
I have so much growing yet to do in this. One recommendation I want to make, is that you listen to super convicting lesson by Chuck Pike on helping the poor. It has really stirred up my thinking. He says the biggest obstacle to helping the poor isn’t the lack of resources, it’s the lack of motivation. We’re too tied up in our love of money, pleasure, and self.
We need to look at the scriptures anew, and take a hard look at ourselves. Because it’s just as true for us as it was at the time of Malachi. We will be judged by how we treat others.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ Matt 25:41-43
You know, Mother’s Day is coming up. I’ve been asked to share something a little something at church. I’ve been thinking about my mother, and the good things she taught me. One thing my mother really believed, and lived by, is that people are important. She genuinely cared about people, that was very evident in the way she gave her whole focus to someone when she was with them, and how they were on her heart when she wasn’t with them.
In the end, that’s what God wants from us as well, for people to be important to us.
And I’m finding that it’s easy to say, “Yeah, let’s care about people more,” but really hard to put into practice. Because it’s heart growth that needs to happen, and heart growth takes time.
So let’s seek to grow in this. Let’s take a fresh look at the scriptures. Let’s look at examples of giving we admire, and seek to imitate that. And let’s pray. We can’t help with every need, but we can wake up every morning and pray, “Who is my neighbor today, Lord? Please show me, and help me to love them as I would want to be loved.”
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? I John 3:17
If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; Deut 15:7