Exodus 23:9 (NKJV)
9 “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
One of the most challenging things that many of us face in our daily lives is that of identifying honest and reputable businessmen. Our car breaks down; our sewer backs up; our computer crashes; our reputation or livelihood is threated by a lawsuit. We find ourselves strangers in a strange land – having to deal with problems we’ve never faced before. What we need is someone honest and skilled to assist us: to tell us exactly what’s wrong and then fix it for a fair price. But what we often find instead are charlatans who expand the list of things wrong and charge far more than is just to do the work.
Last week we observed in our text from Exodus that God expects us to be gracious and loving toward strangers which implies that we are to be actively welcoming visitors into our congregation. Today I’d like us to consider a second implication of the text: namely, we are to treat others justly. When others are dependent upon our expertise or knowledge in a certain area, we are called to use our knowledge to bless them rather than to exploit them. As strangers in a strange land they are entrusting themselves to us. So we are commanded to treat them as we would like to be treated were we in their situation. Moses reminds us:
17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. 18He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. (Dt 10:17-19)
God commands us to love the stranger, to care for and protect him. He does this for two reasons. First, this is what God Himself does. He loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. As our Lord Jesus reminds us, God causes His rain to shine on the just and the unjust. His mercies are over all His works. And so, as those called to imitate our God, our Lord summons us, like Him, to love the stranger.
Second, we ourselves know what it is like to be strangers in a strange land. Hence, we are to love them. The principle embedded in this exhortation is none other than that articulated by our Lord Jesus in the Golden Rule. “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12). When relying upon others’ expertise we would have folks treat us fairly and justly and graciously – assisting us in our need and not exploiting us in our ignorance.
Thus we are to practice the same – especially in the realm of business. As a businessman I must beware lest I take advantage of another’s ignorance and so exploit them. My work should be done honestly and well – giving them an accurate assessment of their problem and charging them fairly for the work I perform.
Reminded of our obligation to be just and fair to others, let us acknowledge that we often take advantage of our customers and exploit their ignorance rather than loving them. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.