Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – God’s Love for the Poor and the Foreigner (Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34)

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God… When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”

Leviticus 19:9-10, 33-34

God decreed a law for the Israelites to purposefully provide food for the poor and the sojourner. “Sojourner” in Hebrew can also be translated as “foreigner” or “immigrant” (גֵּר [gēr]). The Israelites were commanded not to mistreat them but to treat them as if they were one of their own because they, too, were foreigners in a strange land (Egypt).

This is important for knowing what laws do and do not apply to Christians. Essentially what it comes down to is whether Jesus and/or His chosen Apostles taught it or not, who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, which means Helper (John 15:26-27; Acts 2:1-2). We know we are still to keep the Ten Commandments because Jesus teaches and affirms each one of them (Matthew 5:17-19; Luke 18:20; etc.). We know homosexuality is sinful because the Apostle Paul reaffirms this (Romans 1:26-28; 1 Corinthians 6:9). And so, we know we are still to care for the poor because Jesus commends such selfless giving (Mark 10:21; Matthew 25:31-40) and even commands it (Matthew 6:1-4), as do the Apostles (Galatians 2:10; 1 Timothy 6:18; James 2:14-17).

And we are still to care for the foreigner/immigrant among us because just as God commanded the Israelites to love the foreigner as themselves, Jesus uses these words as an addendum to the Great Shema, “‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31). Thus, Jesus lumps foreigners in with the rest of our neighbours. Therefore, when, like the arrogant lawyer, we ask who our neighbour is, this includes the immigrant among us (Luke 10:25-37), regardless of legal status. Just as the Israelites were expected to include immigrants into their society, so it is incumbent upon us to help illegal and undocumented immigrants become responsible residents and/or citizens, just as the church has graciously and hospitably helped me with my foreign wife.

I’m still reading through the Old Testament in my daily reading, and I’ve been compiling a list of texts that show God’s explicit love and care for sojourners/foreigners. The list is not finished yet, but here’s what I’ve gathered so far that you can consult for your own edification. I will update this list as I continue reading through the Bible:

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