Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
I’d never really noticed how much God has to say about the way we should be treating and caring for foreigners in our midst, until LCPC focused on the “I was a Stranger” theme. I knew we were to be tending to the needs of widows and orphans, but did I just pass right over the foreigner part? With the Global Refugee Crisis being in the forefront of the news these days, there’s no ignoring the fact that there are over 65 million people who are estranged from their homes, communities and countries. The Bible is very clear that we all have a responsibility to these people.
Lee says the Bible doesn’t waste words, so if something is repeated, it is of utmost importance in God’s eyes. I’ve been reading all the blog posts and seeing God’s recurring commands to care for and treat foreigners fairly. This verse, however, is a bit different from the others. It commands fair treatment of foreigners, but there is a curse involved for those who disobey! That word really caught my attention. Curses are the opposite of blessings. God lists the blessings of being obedient in chapter 28 of Deuteronomy – blessings on the fruits of our wombs, our crops, our livestock, our land, strength against our enemies and being established as God’s holy people. The curse for disobeying God’s command is that these blessings are withheld from us. Seems like the curse encompasses just about all aspects of our lives.
What are ways we might withhold justice from a foreigner, and incur this curse? Other biblical translations use phrases like “obstructs or deprives foreigners of their rights” or “anyone who isn’t fair in the way he treats foreigners.” I can’t think of a personal way I have withheld justice from a foreigner, but I can certainly think of times I have been frustrated, impatient or have judged people from other cultures who do things differently from us native Californians. I’m guessing God wouldn’t view that as fair treatment. If I was living in a war torn country where my family wasn’t safe from violence and terrorism, I probably wouldn’t feel I was being treated fairly if I wasn’t allowed entry into another country so I could protect my precious family. I think God might agree.
I feel pretty powerless to make much of a difference for the millions of refugees fleeing right now, but God calls me to do something. I can make a Refugee Welcome Kit. I can make a donation to an organization directly working with refugees. I can sponsor a child through Compassion or World Vision who is a refugee in another country. I can use my voice to stand up against laws that feel discriminating to refugees. I can pray for protection and for these people’s needs to be met. I can befriend a stranger who has moved into my own community and show them God’s love by helping them get settled.
And about that curse? We were all cursed because we have never been able to keep God’s commands perfectly. Praise God that Jesus bore the curse for all of us.