The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
WeekXIX: Assorted Lessons from the Law of Moses
Day 127: Lending with Interest
If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.
When I first saw this and similar verses in the Bible I was amazed, and thought I must be misunderstanding something. Could it possibly be that Israeli lenders were not to charge interest to borrowers? What about banks? How could they make a living without charging interest? Is it possible that our whole society is in error? because nearly every American is in debt of some kind—I mean, how many homeowners would there be in our land if we couldn’t borrow at the going rate of interest?
Well, just because a whole society is set up around a certain custom or practice doesn’t mean it’s right! Lending at interest is forbidden by the Bible, and in a pretty straightforward way—"Thou shalt not charge interest!" In fact, one of the characteristics of a righteous man is that he doesn’t charge interest to his neighbor (Psalm 15:5, Ezekiel 18:8, etc.) God doesn’t see banking as an honest way of making a living at all, for it’s entirely based upon interest. It tempts you to wonder what the Lord thinks of our country and our economy, in which the banks are the most powerful and influential players.
God’s reasoning is clear if you pause to think about it. Borrowing at interest is another way of oppressing the helpless and profiteering on someone else’s need or sorrow. Here is someone who had a bad year, the crops didn’t come in well, and now doesn’t have enough money to live, and perhaps has sickness in the family on top of everything else... and along comes the banker. "I can help you out... for a price... every year you’ll have to add another 15% to what you owe me... if you take a long time to pay, you might even end up paying two or three times as much as the original loan, of course... and if you fail to make your payments on time, I’ll just possess your whole farm... sounds pretty good, doesn’t it... just sign hear on the line..."
The banking business profits on the pain and misfortune of others, and it profits hugely—just look at any downtown business district and tell me who owns the largest buildings (insurance companies are just another kind of banking and investment business, by the way, in which the customer pays much more than he ever receives against the possibility of misfortune in the future).
I’m not saying that all bankers are crooks, or that someone who works in a bank is part of antichrist’s system. Today many Americans are in debt, not because they were poor to begin with, but because they were greedy and desired a lifestyle beyond what they could afford. In America today borrowing on interest is practiced by everyone from the federal government to the churches, the rich to the poor, and even the banks themselves! Our economy is, to a large degree, based on the practice, and most people—both lenders and borrowers—are unaware of the implications of what they’re doing.
That doesn’t make it right!. And it can’t go on indefinitely. The individual or family that does not get out of debt will be swallowed up by it. The country that lives by borrowing and lending will soon see the entire economy collapse. The lenders will be hurt as well as the borrowers in an economy that is totally disrupted by usury gone wild. And again, God’s ways will be proven to be the right ways. And isn’t that what we’ve been saying all along?
Day 128: Respecting Our Earthly Leaders
"You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
It makes sense that the serious believer in Christ shouldn’t curse or revile, criticize God—that’s a real no-brainer! But some people seem to think it’s their God-given right—even duty—to revile their earthly leaders... how are we going to keep them on their toes if we don’t challenge them from time to time? The Bible says differently. We’re not to revile them. Period. Plain and simple and straightforward. Do you know I found an entire joke-book about former Vice President Dan Quayle the other day in a used bookstore? What on earth did that poor man do to incur the wrath of the media the way he did? To my knowledge he never really made a serious blunder, or acted in an obnoxious way. Could it be because he claims to be a born-again Christian? How about President Bush—never does a night go by when he isn’t ripped apart by talk show hosts, not to mention the nastier HBO comedians.
In a country that prides itself on freedom of the press, and a government elected by the people and for the people, it’s inevitable that our leaders will be abused as our moral principles decline as a nation. We treat our leaders as thought it’s always open season—you can slam their character and motives, quote them out of context, make them the butt of crude jokes, and even invent lies about them. If the leaders can’t take the heat, then they’d better stay out of the kitchen!
That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s one thing to disagree with a man’s policies or opinions, but you’re to respect the man himself, especially if you claim to be a Christian. God will not hold you guiltless if you revile your leaders.
Does the same hold true for religious leaders? Of course, for they’re leaders of the people, too. Unfortunately the same rebellious leader-judging goes on in church that goes on in the secular media. Preachers themselves are often forced to tread a thin line, being careful not to appear harsh or judgmental, but you can go home and slam him in front of your friends and children, or even get on the phone and tell everyone who will listen about all of his supposed shortcomings.
Your position is indefensible, according to the Bible. "Thou shalt not revile a leader of the people!" It’s not a matter of democracy, but of respect. No government on earth can give you the "right" to countermand the commandments of God, and God says, "Don’t revile your leaders!" The Bible also implies that if you can’t respect your leaders whom you see, you can’t respect God whom you don’t see. You may object to that statement, but it’s echoed in various forms throughout the Old and New Testaments, and by Jesus Himself in Matthew 23:39.
If you’re guilty of reviling your leaders, secular or spiritual, repent now, and ask God to help you adjust your attitude. The American way, the way you’ve been trained to think of and regard leadership is wrong; the Christian must walk in the Bible way. You’ll be doing not only your church, but your country, too, a favor by changing your ways.
Day 129: The Evils of Procrastination
You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage...
The Law of Moses shows a great deal of knowledge and insight into human character as well as knowledge of spiritual things, and it’s no wonder—God, who knows the hearts of all men, gave it to Moses on the mount! As we go through the Law in these chapters nearly every verse introduces a new law, and increases our understanding of God’s ways, and of human nature from His perspective.
"You shall not delay your offerings..." Procrastination is one of the great enemies of the Gospel, one of the ways in which well-meaning men and women slowly commit spiritual suicide. The devil knows this, and uses all his powers to make each step of righteousness as inconvenient as possible. He rarely says, "Don’t do that at all," but he often speaks to our minds, "Do it a little later, after you’re done with this-and-such, or when so-and-so can go with you...when you’re not so tired...when things aren’t so busy... it’s a good thing, and you’re surely going to do it, but not just now..."
The plain fact of the matter is that if we put something off, we usually don’t do it at all. Our text speaks of giving offerings to the Lord, and nearly every Christian would agree that the work of God needs and deserves our support. Most of us believe in giving a tenth or more of our income to the church. But have you ever got behind in your tithing? It’s almost impossible to get caught up; for if you miss one tenth this week, that means you’ll have to pay two tenths a week later, and three tenths the week after that, and so on. If you go through very tight times, and the enemy convinces you to put off tithing for two or three months... well, let’s face it, you’ll never get a big enough windfall to catch up. Furthermore, you’ll have brought a curse upon your finances, according to Malachi 3:8-9, and your situation will be getting worse instead of better, which is exactly what the devil wanted in the first place—to ruin your happiness, and also to cripple your church just that much. All through procrastination, all through good intentions put off till a sunnier day.
How’s your morning prayer time going these days? If you sleep in one day, promising yourself that you’ll pray a little later when you get a few spare minutes, nine times out of ten you won’t pray at all that day. If you allow this to happen fairly often, missing your prayer time more than you actually make it, you’ll very likely quit having devotions altogether—while still agreeing that it’s the right thing to do.
Whatever you procrastinate about, you’ll eventually push entirely out of your life and thinking and heart—that’s why the Bible says "today is the day of salvation." If you put it off till tomorrow, the odds are against you ever doing it. Don’t let the devil cheat you out of getting a blessing and being a blessing—quit putting off until tomorrow the things you’re supposed to do today.
Day 130: The Gang Mentality
You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil...
My wife and I first arrived in India in 1984 just in time to be on hand when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. Thousands of Sikhs were tortured and killed in the backlash of the ensuing days, their homes looted and burned, as angry mobs stormed about the city looking for victims. A few months later I did some meetings in one of the colonies hit the hardest by the riots. The people seemed to be hard-working and honest, and very hospitable and pleasant to us. However, I saw televisions and other very expensive appliances in some of the most unlikely huts, and I later came to understand that these were taken from the homes of Sikhs before they’d been torched. I was ministering among some of the very people who had mutilated and killed innocent families just a few weeks earlier!
A mob has a mentality and personality all its own that is different than any of the individuals involved. As an unsaved teenager I hung around with a gang of punks, and we did some pretty awful things sometimes. But when I talked with various of my fellow gang-members alone, I learned they were vulnerable people with dreams and fears like anyone else. Together as a group we had to keep up the image of toughness—we couldn’t be nice, we couldn’t be vulnerable; the group mentality had to be maintained. Alone things came out that might never be admitted in the gang.
I’ve seen the same thing in some Christian circles, whether it be a church, a pastors’ fellowship, or the gathering of the local elders or deacon board. The corporate mentality is often different than the individuals who make it up. Dissenters, and people who leave, are denigrated and defamed, even though they may go on to live successful Christian lives. Anybody foolish enough to ask the wrong question is marked and watched, and eventually forced out. Most have private doubts about the whole thing—was so-and-so really as bad we say he is, or did he just commit the unpardonable sin of having an honest disagreement with the accepted gang mentality?
Few have enough courage to challenge the gang mentality—t takes a certain kind of reckless idealism, for you could very well be signing your own death-warrant by speaking up. As a result, many Hindus went along with killing innocent Sikhs, even though they thought it was wrong. And many gang members act against their consciences. And many Christians toe the company line, lest they lose their own standing, and their friends, and be forced to uproot their families.
It’s incredibly sad when you think about it. Who is behind this gang mentality in the first place? Why is it so destructive? Does it really have a personality of its own? Could it be an actual spirit that is allowed in somewhere along the way? It always seems to be evil and prejudiced in nature...does this spirit have a name? If so, what is it? I’ll give you three guesses...
Day 131: Champions of the Underdog
Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.
Here’s an interesting twist on an old problem of prejudice between the so-called "haves" and "have nots." You’d expect God to say, "Don’t have respect of persons—don’t prefer a rich man over a poor man," which of course, is stated elsewhere in the Bible, but here it’s reversed: you shall not show preference to a poor man.
In a nation like ours, this command is probably more applicable than the other—Americans as a whole probably tend to side with the poor man in a dispute. A few years back, the first President Bush sent thousands of soldiers to the Persian Gulf to take up the cause of little Kuwait. It really wasn’t totally a matter of oil interests—not directly, anyway—for we receive little oil from Kuwait. We just wanted to make an example out of that bully, Sadam Hussein. We’ll take the side of the underdog every time—it’s a national characteristic. In the case of Kuwait, it was very likely the right thing to do, but even when it’s not, you’ll usually find the Americans on the side of the underdog.
Another example: our state (Minnesota) almost always votes for the Democratic Farm and Labor party. Here, as well as elsewhere in our land the Democrats have taught us to believe that, the Republicans are on the side of the "fat cats," but the Democrats stick up for the little guys like you and me. That’s not necessarily true, of course, but the Democrats have taken that misconception and ridden it for all it’s worth, right down incorporating the "little guys" (farmers and laborers) into the party name. Minnesotans always vote for the underdog.
It’s the same in the church too often. Many believers automatically take the side of a dissident church member against the leadership without even bothering to find out the facts. If they do bother to examine the evidence they start out prejudiced in favor of the little guy and end up even more prejudiced. Many people who change churches come in with all sorts of horror stories about their last pastor... I’m surprised that any pastor would receive those stories without checking them out! To believe some rebellious, sin-ridden church-hopper at the expense of a leader of proven integrity—well, it doesn’t make much sense. But it’s what happens when you have an automatic bias for the underdog... you see yourself as the hero of the common man, able to right wrongs and straighten out injustices for those who are victimized by the evil "system." Many of the "little guys" really know how to play on the sympathy of such champions, too, by the way.
God knew the tendency among certain people to act and think this way, and so he put it right in the Law of Moses. Everyone deserves justice and a fair hearing, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. You can’t declare a man guilty just because he has money, or is the top dog in a given situation. You can’t favor the so-called "little guys." God says, "nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute."
Day 132: Justice & Impartiality, Christian Style
If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.
Much of the Law is taken up with specific instances of justice and righteousness, instructing the people of God to be just in all their dealings. It’s not natural to be fair, just and impartial, as Jesus also pointed out in the Sermon On The Mount... we tend to love our friends, and hate our enemies, to be nice to those who are nice to us, and cold or wicked to those who’ve been wicked to us. We do it without thinking. We strike back impulsively, with little thought for justice or fairness, or the other person’s perspective.
At the same time, almost any thoughtful person will recognize the beauty and the justice of God’s approach to these matters in the Law. If your enemy’s ox wanders off, and you find it, you return it to him. Whether he likes you or not, it’s still his ox, and the right thing to do is return it. If you see someone who hates you in need, you help him out. You don’t prefer the rich or the poor, and you don’t abuse a foreigner who lives in your midst. You don’t take bribes, and you steer clear of any perversion of justice.
All of these laws have to do with prejudice and partiality. In other words, treating someone differently on the basis of how much money they have, what race they are, whether they love or hate you, or whether or not they give you a bribe. God says we’re not to pervert justice by classifying people that way. The civil rights activist will certainly say, "Amen" to that, but still hates his own enemies—and you won’t see him helping a wealthy Anglo-Saxon Protestant change a flat tire, either!
The tire has nothing to do with other differences. A lost ox or donkey is an innocent victim in exchange. Anybody—rich or poor, black or white, enemy or friend—can find themselves in trouble, and we’re to be fair and just about it, regardless of whatever party lines we may hold to. Do you realize what a great country we’d have if all the parties decided to work constructively together, instead of fighting each other for the sake of fighting? Isn’t this Democrat/Republican, white/black, rich/poor, sort of thing getting a little old?!
Someone has to start being nice first, and according to the Bible, it should be the Christian. Love those who hate you, do good to those who despitefully use you, return good for evil, exercise justice regardless of prejudices, party lines, or skin color. It often has a way of softening up the opposition, and eventually turning them into friends. If it doesn’t really turn out that way, at least you’ll have done the right thing, you’ll have been just and fair, and God will not overlook that.
Day 133: When God Goes Ahead of Us
Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared... I will send my terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.
Sometimes we fail to appreciate how the Lord goes ahead of us and prepares our way in life. We act as though everything were up to us and our ingenuity; that God gives the orders and we carry them out: go witness to that person! start up this-and-such a ministry and make it good! get victory over that binding habit right now! So we take a deep breath, gird up our loins, and set out to do some great work for the Lord, and as often as not we fail miserably. Then we get discouraged, and aren’t as eager to go out and obey the Lord next time around.
Today’s text states that God doesn’t send us out alone, but goes with us. More than that, He actually goes ahead of us. The Israelites weren’t able to defeat the Canaanites by themselves. No matter. God went ahead of them. He sent a fear, or terror, ahead of them as they went; there was fear in the enemy’s camp long before they showed up—for their reputation, and God’s terror, had preceded them. When the Canaanite soldiers looked on the Israelites they saw super-warriors. They were psyched out before the battle began. You can’t psych out people by yourself—that’s a fleshly tactic that the Apostle Paul said he didn’t use (see 2 Cor 10:4)—but when God does it, it works; and it’s not a manipulation of the flesh, but a move of the Spirit!
Today God goes ahead of us when we share our faith with someone. He works on them for days and months, even years ahead of time, knowing that one day they’ll be ready to receive the servant He sends for them. I think only one person could have brought me to Jesus—he was just zealous enough (he was plain crazy about Jesus, actually), had a similar background in rock bands, and was intelligent and articulate enough to show me that Christianity wasn’t just for social misfits who didn’t have anything else going for them. And God had prepared my heart for his witness. That’s how this hard-hearted, seemingly reprobate druggy got saved.
God is going ahead of you, too—and with you. When you open your mouth and begin to share the Gospel, do it in the faith that the ground is already prepared, and trust the Holy Spirit to add power to what you say. You don’t have to answer every question before it’s asked, covering all the possible contingencies... relax and trust God. He’s got it all together. He’s been working on this individual for a long time before calling you in to do your part. You’ll be more likely to step out and do your part, too, once you realize that it’s not a losing battle—in fact, the battle has been won already and you’re just going in to mop up. Believe it, and act. You’ll find out it’s true.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.