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 fair 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 take advantage of them. As strangers in a strange land they are entrusting themselves to us. So we are commanded to treat them justly and fairly. Moses reminds us:
Deuteronomy 10:17–19 (NKJV)
17 For 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. 18 He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. 19 Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
God commands us to love strangers, to care for and protect them. He does this for two reasons. First, this is what God Himself does. He loves them and so we must. Second, we ourselves know what it is like to be strangers in a strange land. Therefore, we are to love them.
The principle embedded in this text 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.
So we too 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 kneel and confess that we have often used our knowledge to exploit others rather than to bless them.