And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord…
9 “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. 10 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.
11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
When I was assigned my first parish I was sent to a small congregation in Utah. It was a small place, but it had some big people in it. An affluent community, it drew from a mainly white-collar strata of society: engineers, pilots, managers, scientists, etc. I remember one particularly impressive fellow who had a very stressful job. Or at least it seemed stressful to me. I was young and green behind the ears in this regard. He negotiated the contracts for the publicly owned hydroelectric dams in the intermountain region. He was a civil servant in the Energy Department of the federal government.
He seemed to be able to stand his ground very well and yet always was willing to talk to someone and reason with them, looking for a solution to the problem. He made a very good negotiator on your behalf. Sometimes people would say or do strange things, but it never stopped the conversation. Does that seem particularly timely and counter-cultural to you too? I think our world needs to hear verse 17 of this reading and we all need to work at putting this into practice. The rhetoric of our age seems to be veering into the irrational on both ends of the many spectrums in which discourse and live.
In fact, this whole passage merits our attention. Injustice in courts, partiality to either the poor or the great is a problem. Robbery and oppression, failure to pay workers and the treatment of the handicapped all benefit from these words of Moses from long ago. But let us reason with one another when we disagree. Let us solve the problems instead of simply stating them or more likely simply seeing them in another person. He is the LORD. He calls us to this.