Obedience Among Neighbors
Posted November 20, 2022
Lesson 12 Fall Quarter
Lesson Text: Leviticus 19:9-18, 33-37
Golden Text: Leviticus 19:18
Our Sunday School lesson this week is our Thanksgiving lesson as we continue looking at God’s instructions for how we should treat all of those around us. In a recent lesson, we took a look at how we must be just (fair) to all people; whether one is poor or wealthy, all should be treated equally. Our lesson this week will hit on the subject of greed, and again, we will take a look at being just in our conduct.
Loving Your Neighbor
Jesus said that the commandments are summed up by two great commandments: loving the Lord and loving your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt. 22:36-40). The second portion of the Ten Commandments were commandments for the children of Israel to love their neighbors (Ex. 20:12-17).
Don’t be greedy
Does being greedy sound like an action of love? Absolutely not, right? The first verse of our lesson opens with the Lord instructing the children of Israel not to wholly reap the corners of their fields nor to gather the gleanings of their harvest (v.9). From this verse, we see the idea of not being greedy is clearly shown.
To glean: to gather grain or other produce left by reapers. In terminology that a lot of us will understand, to glean essentially means to wipe clean with no trace left behind. So, essentially, the Lord was instructing the children of Israel not to wipe their fields clean when it came time for harvesting and gleaning. They were not to gather from the corners of their field, and they were not to follow and gather up what the reapers may have missed or was unable to gather while reaping.
Now, this would sound a bit odd at first because we would think that farmers would harvest their whole field, right? So, for what purpose would the Lord instruct them not to harvest the whole field? For what purpose would the Lord instruct them not to go back and glean what the reapers may have left behind? We will answer these questions in a moment.
In the follow up verse, we will see that the children of Israel were, again, instructed to not even glean their vineyards or gather every grape of the vineyard (v.10). So, essentially, they were to leave some grapes behind in the vineyard just as they were to leave some crops behind in the field. So, again, I ask, why do you think the Lord is giving these instructions to the children of Israel?
The answer to this question can be seen in this same verse. The Lord’s reason for these instructions was that the children of Israel were to leave crops in the field and grapes in the vineyard for the poor and the stranger. Those that were less fortunate, instead of having to go and beg for something to eat, would be able to go out into the field and gather some food. Strangers traveling in the land, if they were without food, would be able to simply go into the field and get some food.
Wasn’t this a wonderful thing for the Lord to instruct the children of Israel to do for those that were around them? You see, the greedy person only looks out for themselves, and therefore, they only care about themselves. Those that were less fortunate or a hungry stranger, would have starved to death if it were up to the greedy.
This puts me in mind of the parable Jesus told about the “rich fool” (Luke 12:13-21). This rich man had a field that flourished and yielded so much that he ran out of room to store his crop. So, what did he do? Did he share his crops? No. The man tore down his barns and built greater barns to be able to store all of his crops. In doing this, God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?”
For us today, this should be a warning about being greedy – the Lord does not love greed. As you have heard me say before, we were not put in this world to live for just ourselves. No, God has surrounded us with other people for the purpose of us helping to uplift each other. Greed stands for everything that stands against God.
Move in an upright manner
In our next verse, we will see the Lord instruct the children of Israel not to steal, deal falsely, nor lie to one another (v.11). This, again, touches back on what we were focusing on in a recent lesson and also reiterates a couple of the commandments.
A couple of weeks ago, we saw the children of Israel were instructed not to circulate a false report. We concluded that the reason why the children received those instructions was because God desired for them to move in His way – His righteousness. If they were going to be a proponent for God’s righteousness, it would be hypocritical for the children of Israel to side with injustice when through His righteousness, God is a just God.
If the Lord was instructing the children of Israel to not be greedy but to leave food for others in the field, it would not make much sense for them to go out and rob from and mistreat others. If you look at the follow up verses, you will see that it would not make much sense for them to cheat their neighbors as well (vss.13-14). Why so? Well, by the opening verses of our lesson, we see that the children of Israel were to be helping and uplifting those around them.
Doesn’t this same thing hold true for us today? Most certainly it does. God desires for us to do right by all of those around us. So, why would we go out and steal from those around us? Why would we go out and mistreat those around us? Why would we cause those around us to stumble when, if we live by the way of Christ, we would be helping to uplift.
A believer that robs others in any manner or mistreats others in any manner are hypocrites to their proclaimed faith; they are not truly walking in the way of the Lord. In other words, we would be profaning the name and the way of the Lord; this is also something we see the Lord instruct the children of Israel not to do – not to swear falsely by His name, nor profane His name (v.12).
Not hating others
Someone might ask, how would those actions be profaning the name of God and His instructions? Well the children of Israel, and we who are of genuine faith today, have been commanded by the Lord to love our neighbors. If we say that we are of the Lord – His children – yet we are not living in His way, wouldn’t that profane Him? Let us remember what we learned a couple lessons ago, to profane means to debase.
With that in mind, the Lord then instructed the children of Israel not to do injustice in judgment, and to not be partial to the poor, or be biased in honoring the person of the mighty (v.15). This, again, sounds very familiar as we saw these instructions in that same lesson about justice a couple of weeks ago. Justice is to be fair and equal to all people, no matter the race, wealth or lack thereof.
The Lord then instructed the children of Israel not to be ‘talebearers’ (v.16). What is a talebearer? A talebearer we would recognize as one who gossips. People who deal in gossip love to stir up a bunch of mess; even worse is you can never trust one who gossips to be telling the truth.
Those who gossip love to spread false reports and conspiracies which we have seen is something that stands against the Lord. God does not deal in false reports or conspiracies; they lead to nothing but confusion and God is not the author of confusion. God, however, is the author of truth and truths is where the Lord dwells. If God is a God of truth, then His children should be children of the truth and not children of gossip and conspiracy theories – false reports.
This leads the Lord to instructing the children of Israel not to hate their brother in their heart (v.17). You see, it takes one to hate another to be able to lie to them, mistreat them, and to rob them as well. Those whom you hate – don’t care for – are those that are typically not dealt with. Yet, the Lord says that we ought not hate anyone, but that we should love others and be willing to rebuke them when they need correcting (v.18).
As we saw in a recent lesson, when God was instructing the children of Israel to still love their enemies, this can be rather difficult. A lot of us struggle with loving those that may hate us. Rather than dealing with them, we typically choose to leave them alone. God, however, asks for us to grow beyond our hatred, and through Christ, we know that we are to pray for those that would persecute and spitefully use us.
The Lord essentially is asking for us to be fair and honest, just as He was asking of the children of Israel. So many of us struggle with being honest and fair because it is so much easier for us to either not care or not love. However, would we really be a child of God if we did not have love or did not care for those around us? Even I have to learn how to care more for those around me because I shut off my care for those that don’t care for me very quickly!
At this point, our lesson skips over a few verses to the Lord instructing Israel not to mistreat the stranger that dwelt with them in their land (v.33). The stranger being spoken of in this verse, I believe, included those who came with Israel from Egypt and also the wandering stranger that may enter into the land. God said to Israel, “the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself (v.34).”
Is there any doubt that the Lord wanted Israel to love their neighbors? Let’s be clear here that the neighbor did not mean just those who were of the blood Israel and may have looked like them! No, the neighbor included both the stranger and even those who may have hated them.
Again, these instructions were being given directly to the children of Israel, but we must also remember that Christ instructed us to move in the same manner of love for our neighbors. So, when you see someone who has professed to be a child of God moving in a manner that is causing hurt or harm, just know that they are not moving according to the way of God.
As our lesson comes to a close, we will see the Lord, again, instruct the children of Israel not to do injustice in judgment. They were supposed to be honest in how they treated others as well as be honest and fair in their judgment (vss.35-36). Again, Israel and the child of God ought to be this way because that is how the Lord has been towards us!