30 Days in the Bible, Day 15: Leviticus 19:9-10
These instructions come at the beginning of a section in Leviticus that deals with laws regarding the Israelites were to treat their neighbors. In some ways, it fleshes out some of what we saw in Micha’s later prophecy yesterday. This passage is preceded by laws that deal with holiness in the presence of a holy God. As long as the Israelites were concerned with the Lord’s holiness and how they were to exhibit holiness in His presence, these laws would be no problem to keep.
There are many places in the law and throughout the Old Testament where the Lord instructs His people to care for the poor. Their neglect of these laws was a persistent theme in the preaching of the prophets. An entire book of our Old Testament, Ruth, is based around the way the poor and the sojourners were to be treated.
This theme carried over into the New Testament. Sometimes we get comfortable reading the law and realizing we are under grace, but the NT makes it clear that this moral obligation hasn’t been abolished. Care for the poor and those rejected by society was one of the distinguishing marks of the early church, not only in the time of the apostles but in the centuries that followed.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, some Christians started to make concern for the poor and for the problems of society more important than care for the salvation of the lost. This became known as the “social gospel,” and it provoked a strong reaction from people who were committed to the truth of God’s Word and to the message of the gospel. However, some went too far in this reaction, and became so concerned with the spiritual state of people that they began to minimize their real physical needs. The net result was a divide in the institutional church between care for the body and care for the soul.
Thankfully, many evangelical Christians maintained that, while the gospel was our primary message, Jesus also called us to meet the material needs of those who were poor, displaced, alone, and sick. This care is part of what we as Christians are called to do, and it is often an important step in helping people see the love of Jesus so they can start to consider their spiritual need as well as their physical needs.
We must never lose our focus on sharing the gospel as our primary mission for the Lord, but we must also never lose focus on treating “the least of these” with care and compassion to demonstrate Christ’s love. When we are ministering in both respects in a proper Biblical balance, we will show Jesus to our world, and see them respond to His love.