Thursday after the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Deuteronomy 24:10—25:10 (NKJV)
24:10 “When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge. 11 You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight. 13 You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the LORD your God.
14 “You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of your brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. 15 Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry out against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you. 16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.
17 “You shall not pervert justice due the stranger or the fatherless, nor take a widow’s garment as a pledge. 18 But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this thing.
19 “When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this thing.
25:1 “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, 2 then it shall be, if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, that the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows. 3 Forty blows he may give him and no more, lest he should exceed this and beat him with many blows above these, and your brother be humiliated in your sight.
4 “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.
5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. 7 But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.'”
These are laws that preserve the community. They preserve the family, the village, the tribe. This society in Deuteronomy was very focused on community. This is certainly different from American individualism, but it is the normal state of human beings. “Little needs to be said about the well-known relevance of ethnicity in the ancient world. Ancients were keenly cognizant of the ‘people’ to which they belonged and the ‘peoples’ that surrounded them.” (Aaron Kuecker). Ancient people were very much part of a collective identity. They were strongly aware that their individual identities were tied to their community identities. “Contemporary Western society is highly individualistic. Most of the societies in the majority world still function as tightly knit communities…. That community gives identity and profoundly influences both attitude and lifestyle. In the stories about Jesus, the surrounding community…is a critical component in all that takes place and its presence must be factored into any interpretive effort.” (Kenneth Bailey).
God cares about communities. God cares about us individually and our salvation is possessed individually, but God cares very much for our communities. He makes laws here to preserve the healthy functioning of communities. Healthy communities produce healthy individuals. No man has a purely individual identity. He finds his individual identity in relation to others. When others are taught to be just, kind, faithful and good, he also finds those attributes strengthened in himself when he identifies with such a group. Our Lord wants us to build up good, just and faithful societies so that we might pass on such virtues to the next generation of children.