Monday, 7 September 2015

The edges of the fields

To read my previous post on the refugee crisis, click here.


The first five books of the Bible are known as the books of the law, mainly because a lot of it is about the rules and regulations God gives to his people. In Leviticus, we read about how the Israelites were to treat strangers and foreigners in their lands. These weren't long policies on how to process asylum applications or targets on how to reduce immigration. Nor were they statements on how few refugees they would accept. Instead they were rules on kindness and generosity.

Leviticus 19:33-34 says, "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not ill-treat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God."

I don't these verses leave any room for misreading. If there is a stranger or foreigner among us, we are to love them. I think the "I am the Lord your God" part is brilliant. It reads a bit like, "Do you know who I am? So don't you dare think you can get away with not listening to this." God wasn't joking and we are definitely not to argue.

So, we are meant to love strangers and foreigners. But we can love them by giving nice smiles and being polite, yes? Well, there's more to it than that. A bit earlier in the same chapter (verses 9 and 10 to be precise), God gave instructions to the farmers. Now, I'm guessing that most the population of Israel lived in rural areas. (In fact, it was only few years ago that the world's urban population exceeded the world's rural population for the first time. So, it's a pretty safe assumption.) This meant that these rules applied to a lot of the people, if not most of them. This is what it says:
"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."
It was the responsibility of every farmer to think of the poor and foreigner. Rather than think of their own profit and earnings, farmers were to think of those less fortunate than themselves. The poor could go into the field after the farmer had finished his harvest and pick the bits he had left. The foreigners were looked after by the Israelites. It was the law. I don't think we can say the same about our society.

Instead of unfair subsidies and tax loopholes, God asked for generosity. Instead of greed, God's law showed consideration. Rather than abusing the foreigner and letting them suffocate in the backs of lorries, God asked for love. Instead of preventing foreigners from taking advantage of wealth by building fences, God told them to make themselves at home and to help themselves.

I am not a farmer, but I don't think that excuses me. I know the principles behind the laws are what mattered, not the fine print. So, it's my challenge to make sure these values are exhibited  in my life.

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