Deuteronomy 24 has some good advice. That thing about staying home for a year after you are married? I like that. I wonder if that could be retroactive so that, after 40 years, I could take a year off from work and tell the boss, “I didn’t get my wedding bliss year way back then, I’m taking it now.” The other one I like is don’t kill the parents for what the kids did. Me raising Jacob and Josh raising Jakson, that’s a pretty important edict.
Now the skin disease instruction, and the whole kidnapping discussion? That part doesn’t seem to apply so much. Well, I do have this little rash on my elbow…. too much information!
The point of Deuteronomy 24 seems to be that following God should impact how we relate to society and the people around us. The Israelites are headed into the Promised Land. They are changing from being this wandering, migrant people to a genuine country, with boundaries, and citizens, and rules to live by. What you do with your neighbor’s overcoat doesn’t matter that much when you are drifting around in the desert. How you treat his lawnmower when you borrow it is a pretty big deal in the subdivision. The closer we live together, the more our actions affect the actions of others. And as God people, we are supposed to affect others in a positive way.
Okay, simple lesson. That’s about it for today. Treat people right. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. But is it that simple? Does being a Christ follower truly inform our conduct in every day living? Does what I believe and profess on Sunday morning change the way I respond to my co-worker in the office and my buddy on the golf course? Well, I think so, at least, I think it should.
Here are some very basic observations about this social stuff that might come in handy:
First, remember that people matter. Through out the Old Testament in general and Deuteronomy in particular, there is a lot of talk about property, and belongings, and coats and cloaks, but in the grand scheme of things, it is how you treat the people who are around you that carries the most weight. This passage deals with spouses, in good and bad situations, with neighbors that have borrowed stuff from you and the ones you have borrowed from, and it deals with the poor, the needy, the less fortunate. In every case there is this overriding theme of fairness, compassion, mercy.
Now I know that is true, but I forget it sometimes. Like when I am in a hurry to get somewhere and some poor schmuck in the parking lot is trying to pull out into my busy lane. You would be surprised at how close I can get to the bumper in front of me, so this guy can’t butt in. I hope the person behind me is just as close so that he can’t see my “Jesus Saves” bumper sticker. Or how about the bleeding-heart liberal, or the hard-nosed conservative in the office that spouts a different political view from mine? I can get so focused on setting them straight, telling them the truth, that I stomp all over them to get my point across.
It seems to me that one of the history lessons is that people are far more important than schedules, material goods, or political viewpoints. What does it profit a man if he wins the argument but loses his neighbor’s heart? God has put us here for two reasons; so that we can love Him and so that we can love others. If anything that I am doing or saying doesn’t reflect that, I am probably missing the point. Things like “do unto others,” and “love your enemies,” are vital in my walk with God.
Which leads me to the second observation, my daily interaction with others is a direct reflection of God. Let’s face it, most of those kids in your classroom, the majority of the ladies on your tennis team, have very little knowledge of what God looks like. They may hear a sermon on Christmas and Easter but beyond that we live in a fairly “non-Christian” world. The things of God are never discussed in most households. The Bible, if it is there are all, is somewhere on the bottom of the night stand. They CERTAINLY aren’t doing a study in Deuteronomy. (Who in the world would do that?) So, the only image of God they see is the one in you. The whole world is watching how we treat one another to figure out if this Jesus stuff makes any kind of difference at all.
I have watched really good, God-loving people, get vicious and cruel over perceived political differences. I have seen true Christ followers make Facebook posts that reflected anything but the love of God. I have seen some guy in traffic, with an “I love Jesus” sticker on his window, drive like no one else on the road mattered. (Oh wait, that one was me!) You get the point. Very often, those around us are watching and saying, “If that is what God looks like, I want no part.”
All of II Corinthians 8, our other reading for today, is about having a generous heart. The last part of this chapter, Deuteronomy 24, is about leaving something for the poor. Listen, how you tip your server in the restaurant, the way you talk about your boss in the break room, how you treat your kids and spouse in public, all that reflects on the very nature of God.
So, here are three suggestions for today:
- Make it a point to offer an unexpected kindness to someone today. Hold open the door, wave them in front of you in traffic, help them get a package to their car. Just take the time to be nice to someone.
- Stop and talk to someone who you normally overlook today. Spend a minute with the lady from the mailroom, say hello to the panhandler on the corner, visit for a minute with that old geezer across your back fence. (Oh wait, that’s me too!)
- Finally, send a note, or an email, or make a phone call to someone today telling them that you are praying for them. And then, pray for them.
If we are learning anything from these lessons, hopefully we are learning that God is interested in every part of our daily living, the most minute details. And He is especially interested in how we treat one another. Act today like someone is watching you. They probably are.