Exploring the Biblical meaning of 'Loving Our Neighbors’


Chapter 13

Work and Money

"If you make it plain you like people, it's hard for them to resist liking you back."
-Lois McMaster Bujold

 

Late one evening we came home from work and found ourselves locked out! We were staying briefly in an older mobile home, in which only the sliding patio door worked. At night we locked that door with a security rod. Now the rod was lying firmly in its track on the inside, and we were outside! Half an hour later, we got in by boosting our slim teen-age son through a small bathroom window.

But how had the rod gotten into the track? I couldn’t imagine I’d left it standing so nearly straight up and down that it fell over and landed there.

The next day we were in the living room, and the rod was lying nearby on the carpet. Suddenly our son’s fluffy black-and-white cat, Pepper, picked the rod up in his mouth, trotted over to the door, and dropped it neatly into the track! (A true "copycat!")  I could just hear him thinking, "These messy people! I always have to clean up after them!"

 

During our six homeless years we and other friends repeatedly found ourselves "locked out" from work. How? Many ways. 

My career clearly showed age’s effects.

My first two professional jobs came in my 20’s and early 30’s. Both times, employers contacted me to ask if I’d work for them.

My next two positions (in my late 30’s and early 40’s) took one application each.

By my mid-40’s, getting a new job took a dozen tries.

In my 50’s, after layoffs hit three-fourths of my plant’s workers, I applied to 500 firms. Results? Three interviews. No job.

Even what should have been "automatic" interviews didn’t always happen. One ad called for a degree, but no experience. (I had the degree plus 8 years.) But the employer replied I didn’t meet minimum requirements. Age was the only visible reason.

I received one letter saying "yes, if we win the contract." They didn’t, but most letters like that only mean the company is bidding on a contract. They must prove they have enough people to do the work. So they advertise – not to hire, but to collect resumes. If they do win, they keep most of the people who already work there. It’s honest, but discouraging to job hunters.

I needed work. We had bills to pay and food to buy. But I learned few companies would consider anyone over 40.

Finally we got self-employment as traveling vendors in a major discount chain. Each week my whole family and I drove to a new city in any of eight Western states, worked 50 to 70 hours, packed up, drove to the next scheduled town, and did it all over again. (Once, upon arriving in Riverton, Wyoming, we learned that a one-digit computer error had officially scheduled us for Charlotte, North Carolina.) We earned enough to slow the growth of our debt, but not to reduce it or to afford an apartment.

So we worked "harder, smarter, and longer." We created new products, and spent 5 to 6 days in most stores instead of 4. One year we won our company’s "national sales team of the year" award. But we could only earn money by traveling, and all our traveling expenses had to come out of it. That made living very difficult. We managed the money we had well, yet our debts continued to mushroom.

 

Many of my laid-off co-workers will never own homes again. Few will ever return to the middle class, though nearly all now have some sort of work or are retired. Fifteen years later, one engineer I knew cut grass at an Orlando theme park. Another got a job teaching archery. After our traveling ended, I worked as an on-call hospital guard and in a fast-food outlet.

Biblically, work began when God asked man to "tend and care for" the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). It grew much more difficult after the Fall (Gen. 3:17-19).

 

How should we love the "neighbors" we work for?

Os Hillman said "Our studies show 90 percent of Christians do not feel they’ve been adequately trained to apply Biblical faith in their work life. "We are entering a new era in the church where workplace believers need to be trained for ministry to their own mission field." ("TGIF," Today God is First, 10/28/11.)

There’s room for a whole series of books here! I hope this chapter helps lay their foundation.

Scripture teaches that both employers and employees should treat the other as if he or she was Jesus.

 

Work hard.

"Tackle every task that comes along" (Eccl. 7:18).

"Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically" (Rom. 12:11).

Also read: Prov. 10:26; Col. 3:17, 3:22-25.

1 Peter 2:18 tells us to respect our bosses "even if they are tough and cruel." What kind of advice is that? I’ll say this. Three of my toughest bosses, two at Vandenberg AFB and one in Orlando, were also among my best. All three routinely demanded the absolutely impossible, and castigated us severely (and publicly) when we fell short. Many people couldn’t work for them. Yet they were as lavish (and as open) with their praise as with their criticism. They made us grow. They toughened us. And they gave of themselves. They wanted loyalty, but gave it in return. They arranged new jobs for us after their own projects ended. We became proud to work for them.

 

Could your company’s methods could be improved? Do your best anyway. You’re not alone.

In the early 1900’s, my grandfather toured a Chicago meat-packing plant. The guide stopped the group at one window facing an empty room where mincemeat was mixed. Soon a door on one side opened. A man entered with a wheelbarrow-full of one ingredient, and dumped it directly on the concrete floor. More men with wheelbarrows followed, until all the ingredients were heaped together in one huge pile.

Then several men entered wearing hip boots and carrying shovels. They waded into the pile, stirring it thoroughly. Next they shovelled the mixed mincemeat back into the wheelbarrows and paraded out a second door to the bottling room.

The tour group moved on to watch workers fill the mincemeat bottles and apply labels - which read "Just Like Grandma Used to Make!"

 

Be dependable.

"A faithful employee is as refreshing as a cool day in the hot summertime" (Proverbs 25:13).

What are managers’ nightmares? They certainly include workers who talk on cell-phones, send text messages at work, steal, call in sick to attend parties, come to work drunk, high, or hung over; sleep on duty or don’t show up at all.

But supervisors value dependable workers who report on time, work well even when unsupervised, are honest, and are courteous to staff and customers.

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." – Winston Churchill.

 

Be honest.

"You must not steal" (Exod. 20:15).

Employee theft is a common problem in businesses like fast food. We often had times when money was missing, or when employees gave their friends food free. There was often little doubt who was responsible, because most shortages happened on the same employees’ shifts. Yet, until we got security cameras, it wasn’t provable.

One night a "closer" took several hundred dollars and left a window open to make it look as if the money was stolen after she left. (Under police questioning, she confessed. )

Another worker raised suspicions by always bringing pastries for the crew on mornings after money had been short – but never when it balanced!

But first prize for audacity went to a worker who openly boasted she’d stolen well over $1000 before being fired - then applied to be rehired at another branch!

 

Avoid "office politics."

"Never falsely accuse a man to his employer, lest he curse you for your sin" (Prov. 30:10).

More Scriptures on work: Prov. 10:26; Eph. 6:5-8; Titus 2:9-10.

 

How should we love "neighbors" who work for us?

Both of my two youngest children, Bill and Yvette, have managed fast-food outlets. Yvette was assigned a "problem" store. It was dirty and smelly. Staff had a reputation for rudeness. Customers avoided it.

Within a year she’d turned the location around. It was clean and smelled inviting. Staff was friendly. Employee turnover was half the chain’s average. Sales rose over 40%.

How did she do it? She explains, "For my owners, I had a duty to be honest; and to make sure the store ran smoothly. I took care of day to day problems; handled scheduling, ordering, and personnel.

"As a manager I was a "boss." But as a Christian, I believed I should be a "shepherd" as well. I cared about my crew. I was a teacher; a nurse when injuries needed patching; an ear to listen; a shoulder to cry on; happy for them when things went well; proud of them when they succeeded."

It worked.

 

Pay employees promptly.

"Pay him his wage each day before sunset, for since he is poor he needs it right away; otherwise he may cry out to the Lord against you and it would be counted as a sin against you." (Deut. 24:14-15)

One of our employers often let his Friday payroll slip till Saturday, when banks in our town were closed and no one could deposit their checks till Monday (sometimes Tuesday). No groceries those weekends! Two others, both with low wages, paid once a month. Our money always seemed to run out about the 10th. Those last 20 days were long!

Also read: Isa. 58:6, Jer. 22:13, James 5:1, 4.

 

Value employees, and let them know it.

In 2004 my company named me its national "employee of the year" for my work in our local hospital. With over 80,000 employees in 15 states and Canada, that was a most unexpected honor.

But then the award fell through the cracks.

I was told of the choice in August. The public announcement was to be made in September. It wasn’t. October went by with no word. November came; still nothing.

The local office kept asking. Finally, they reached a key headquarters employee who admitted frankly "I forgot."

But the company did an excellent job of making it right. In December two highly placed officials drove 200 miles to our home, and, together with local staff members, presented the award to my whole family. I liked and respected both men. Meeting them persuaded me they did value me and my family. The memory lapse, which wasn’t theirs, became a humorous sidelight.

 

Provide for advancement.

I want to thank the aerospace/defense industry for helping me learn how much I could do.

In 1980, when the pianist at our small San Diego church told me her company (Computer Sciences Corporation) had a job opening requiring a library degree, I applied.

The interviewer, my prospective boss, asked me what I knew about "configuration management." I thought for a moment, then replied truthfully "I think I’ve heard of it." Not an answer calculated to impress him! He paused, looked me up and down thoroughly, and finally said: "You can learn it."

That simply, I was hired to manage a library of confidential and secret documents for a submarine electronic warfare program.

A year later CSC transferred me to Kennedy Space Center, Florida, where I spent two unforgettable years working with the engineers, technicians, managers, and astronauts who tested, fixed, and flew the earliest Space Shuttles.

Again, I learned an entirely new field. I helped schedule Firing Room computers and software for tests and launches; went to varied meetings at most of KSC’s far-flung facilities; and supervised the tape and documentation library that supported the Firing Rooms.

In the course of that job I stood atop Launch Pad 39A’s tower; visited the electronics rooms buried beneath it; worked inside a Mobile Launch Platform, and walked past unstacked Solid Rocket Booster segments. I stood beneath the orbiter Columbia in its servicing bay; watched Challenger and Discovery arrive at KSC; and sat in the "flow" meetings that prepared Challenger for its first launch (a successful one). I watched Shuttles being mated with their solid rocket boosters and external tanks, transported to Pad 39A, and launched. I heard the "call to stations" that began each countdown, and chatted with astronauts in cafeteria lines, hallways, and mens’ rooms.

 

In late 1983, Martin Marietta (now Lockheed Martin) hired me to help build a West Coast Space Shuttle launch and landing site, nicknamed "Slick 6" (for SLC-6, Space Launch Complex 6), at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. After my interview, the personnel manager told me "We’re going to make you a software planner." I didn’t argue: CSC’s contract at Kennedy was ending, and I needed a new job. But there were two small problems. First, I knew nothing about software. Second, I had no idea what a planner did! Could I learn quickly enough? I had nightmares for weeks.

But my new boss had decided to develop new people. To help manage our launch site activation contract with the Air Force Space Command, he hired as mixed a group as I’ve ever seen. Our college degrees were in history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, religion, and libraries; not space science. One of us came from a brewery! Yet, together, we learned to plan, build, and test a site capable of launching Space Shuttles.

We took classes to learn space technology. Yes, I discovered what a planner does! I learned software development, cost account planning, and critical path networks well enough to earn two written commendations.

 

In January 1986 Martin transferred me to Orlando, Florida to help plan advanced radar, night vision, and missile systems. Two weeks after arriving, I stood in the parking lot on

a bright, clear, cold morning watching the shuttle Challenger climb toward space. Suddenly, the vapor trail ended in an unexpected puff of white smoke. Too soon! Then the two Solid Rocket Boosters emerged, separated, both still burning intensely, performing an agonizing slow-motion ballet across the sky. That wasn’t supposed to happen! Shaking and nauseated, I watched the diverging smoke trails that told me none of those seven - six astronauts and a teacher – would ever return safely.

After that accident, the Vandenberg site was converted to an unmanned one.

In Orlando, we worked on new systems no one had ever built before. My co-workers taught me to create planning tools like action item lists, first-unit flows, hardware requirements lists, and make/buy lists. We set up master plans and detailed schedules. For one night vision system, four of us created a 9,000-activity critical path network (used to help keep the program on schedule and within budget). We succeeded well enough to earn the best on-time record of any defense contractor in the Southeast.

Time after time, we were placed on advanced programs about whose technology we knew nothing. It was a welcome contrast with companies who judged me only by past experience. Martin wanted planners who could learn; who could do new things. We did! We found that, given the chance, we could rise to almost any challenge.

God applied that same principle with leaders like Joseph, Moses, and David, who all stepped up from menial roles to high responsibilities

Could some of our employees respond the same way?

Why not?

My youngest son and daughter have managed several "special needs" individuals. They discovered that those employees were often capable of learning far more than most people thought – and were anxious to be given a chance to prove it! When provided with patient teaching and an opportunity to learn new tasks, they often excelled. They were dependable, hard-working, and honest – and returned Bill and Yvette’s love by nominating them both for Mayor’s Leadership Awards.

Is it harder to fit "special needs" or elderly people into your company’s workforce? Yes, of course. But do you favor supporting all those people only through welfare? I doubt that. And if not, we all need to do our share in identifying productive work such people can do.

Goethe said, "Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you'll help them to become what they are capable of becoming."

Some Scriptures: Gen. 37:18-28; 37:36; 39:1-6; 41:37-42; Ex. 3:10-12; 1 Sam. 16:1-13; Jer. 1:4-10.

 

Treat employees well.

"‘We have fasted before you,’ they say ... Why don’t you hear our prayers? ... I’ll tell you why! Because you ... keep right on oppressing your workers" (Is. 58:3).

"Never oppress a poor hired man, whether a fellow Israelite or a foreigner living in your town" (Deut. 24:14).

In the Bible, "oppress" included not paying workers; treating them unfairly; cheating them; or even selling a family or its children into slavery. 1 Sam 8:11-13 warns Israel that the king they demanded will force some of their sons "to plow in the royal fields and harvest his crops without pay," and their daughters to do his domestic work.

Do some employers "oppress" workers today? Unfortunately, yes. One employer never paid my family for three months’ work. A friend of ours was "shorted" several thousand dollars. One owner tried to avoid time-and-a-half overtime by scheduling employees to work at two stores, but only paying overtime if they worked more than 40 hours at one.

 

And that’s the bare beginning. In parts of the world, "oppression" takes heart-wrenching forms.

In 2000, the United Nations vowed to fight trafficking which had forced at least 12.3 million adults and children worldwide into forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution. But by 2010, the US Department of State acknowledged "too few resources, too little vision, and too few [good] outcomes. Less than of 1 per cent of estimated victims were being identified, little assistance was provided to survivors, and 62 countries had never convicted a trafficker

Trafficking, often controlled by organized crime, affects both men and women. Kara estimates that about one-third of trafficking is for sex, and the other two-thirds "for domestic servitude, forced agricultural work, begging, manufacturing, construction, and organ harvesting."

"Women are trapped in fields, factories, mines, and restaurants, often suffering the dual demons of forced labor and sexual assault ... services for survivors are ... rare ... And if they are found, women are ... [often] locked in "shelters" that look more like prisons than the safe haven that a survivor needs."

Kara cites many kinds of servitude. He describes children trafficked to beg on the streets of major cities. One nine-year-old explained "I started to beg and sell handkerchiefs ... We slept on the bridge .. [the trafficker] burned me with cigarettes because I did not earn enough money ... he always beat me" (p. 147).

Others are "forced to work in sweatshops and factories that produce everything from curry spice to plastic toys" (p. 168).

One immigrant said, "When we crossed from Mexico to Arizona ... the coyote said he found a guy who says he’ll take people to Florida ...to pick tomatoes and earn $150 a day ... we said, OK, let’s go ... But we didn’t get any of that money. We were stuck working for four months without being able to leave" (Kara, p. 190).

During 2005 and 2006, newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune reported that during the US occupation of Iraq, US defense contractor Halliburton and 200 subcontractors trafficked about 35,000 workers from several South Asian and Middle Eastern countries to work on US military bases. Upon arrival, passports were confiscated and the "employees" were forced to work without pay." The Tribune quoted a US Air Force colonel who testified to the US Armed Services Committee that such behavior was "standard practice" (Kara, p. 194).

The deputy superintendent of one country’s trafficking police told Kara of his region’s most violent kind of forced labor: fishing.

Fishing? Pleasant recreation? Not there. Boys are trafficked to the coast, taken out to sea, and forced to catch fish as unpaid slaves. They work twenty hours a day for months. The captains force them to take amphetamines to keep going. Other ships transfer the fish, but the boys are kept on board. At the end of the fishing season, "many are shot and thrown into the sea."

This kind of slavery occurs on the coasts of at least three continents, and forced labor tactics "are used throughout the supply chain, from processing to packaging of seafood" (Kara, p. 167-169).

In the natural gas and oil fields of the western US, we met well-paid workers – not slaves - who depended on drugs to allow them to work 16-to-18 hour shifts, and who then persuaded their wives to "do drugs" with them.

The head of one major non-profit organization told Kara he’d been warned by an International Criminal Court judge that he could work on child trafficking for sex or begging, but "work on child trafficking for organ harvesting, and you’re dead." In at least one country, children are procured from other nations and killed "to carve out their internal organs and sell them on the black market," in collaboration with hospitals. Prices make this practice "just as lucrative as sex trafficking." Kara says that "Despite the risks, efforts to combat child organ harvesting must be escalated" (pp. 89,149).

In West Africa, according to Change.Org, up to 2,000,000 children as young as seven endure sixteen hour days working on cocoa farms, suffering beatings to make them do it. Change.Org is attempting to end that.

On some coffee bean plantations, unpaid slaves are exposed to heavy concentrations of toxic pesticides. And many slave owners slice their slaves’ feet with razor blades each morning to prevent escapes (Kara, p. 258).

There’s much more. But that’s enough!

What would we do if we saw Jesus being treated this way?

 

More Scriptures: Lev. 19:13; Job 31:13-23; Mal. 3:5; Eph. 5:9; Col. 4:1. See Jeremiah 34:8-22 for the results of disobeying laws in Deut. 15:12-18 on the treatment of slaves.

 

What does the Bible say about self-employment?

Many Bible characters worked for themselves. They included farmers; fishermen like Peter and Andrew, cattlemen like Jabal (Gen. 4:20); sheepmen, merchants, artisans and craftsmen like Tubal-Cain (Gen. 4:22), and the men who built the Tabernacle (Ex. 35:10 to 39:43).

Even well-educated St. Paul used self-employment to support himself on his missionary journeys.

"Paul lived and worked [with Aquila and Priscilla], for they were tentmakers just as he was" (Acts 18:3; also see 1 Thess. 2:9).

 

Today self-employment is a common source of extra money, though a challenging way to make a living.

My family’s self-employment through a discount store chain meant survival. And, by letting us choose many of our stores, it gave us a high degree of independence. We made the most of that by careful, prayerful planning, considering both potential income and our children’s education. That let us show them much of the West (including Crater Lake, the Golden Spike Historic Site, the Goldstone Deep Space Tracking Network, the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons, Los Angeles, Monument Valley, the Mount Palomar telescope, Mount Rushmore, Mount Shasta, NASA’s Ames Research Center, the Redwoods, San Diego, San Francisco, and Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks).

 

What barriers to finding work exist today?

Once I’d have said "none." But we encountered several that neither we nor our friends could overcome. Among them:

Pregnancy.

When Yvonne’s lawyer-boss overheard that she was "expecting," he promptly announced he wouldn’t work with a pregnant woman, gave her two weeks’ severance pay, and sent her home. No one else would hire her while she was pregnant. Our income was cut in half. That hurt!

Age.

Many employers still practice age discrimination, even though it clearly violates federal law. One program manager told us our company’s internal policies required 90% of its "new hires" to be new college graduates.

By the time I was in my 50’s even a hint of my age meant no interview. A job-hunting class taught us to omit birth dates on our resumes, never list more than 10 years’ experience, and say "5 years with company X" instead of giving dates. I even dyed my hair to remove the gray! Nothing helped.

Health.

In a San Diego-area campground, we shared an evening wiener roast with a family from Los Angeles. The father was a gifted computer expert who had contracted hepatitis via acupuncture on a business trip to Asia. Now no one would hire him because of his insurance costs. His family couldn’t live without his income. They’d looked hard for solutions. They’d found none.

In contrast, when one of my employees suffered a major heart attack we held his job open until he could return. Our local hospital did the same for me when I broke my ankle and couldn’t work for a month.

We all need work. Laws do officially guard against discrimination. In the US, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 all apply. But, in real life, those laws often aren’t followed.

One pastor wasn’t sympathetic. He argued "you have to understand business’ point of view." Yes, but we wondered: shouldn’t he also care about his sheep? Did he realize he was telling his over-40 parishioners to let their families go hungry and/or homeless?

When we don’t hire – and give fair pay to - "the least of these my brothers" for reasons like age, sex, pregnancy, race, religion, or politics, we’re refusing to hire Jesus.

 

What does the Bible say about loaning money?

Loans were meant to help, not to profit. The Bible advises generous love, coupled with caution.

"If your brother becomes poor, you are responsible to help him; invite him to live with you as a guest in your home. Fear your God and let your brother live with you; and don't charge him interest on the money you lend him. Remember--no interest, and give him what he needs, at your cost: don't try to make a profit!" (Lev. 25:35-38.)

Though the Bible taught generosity and forgiveness, lenders and borrowers both suffered poor reputations. "For I am hated everywhere I go. I am neither a creditor soon to foreclose nor a debtor refusing to pay – yet they all curse me" (Jer. 15:10).

More Scriptures: Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:39-43; Deut. 14:27; 23:19-20; Ps. 15:1-2; 15:5; Prov. 20:16; Ezek. 18:5; 7-17; Matt. 5:42.

 

What Biblical laws governed debts?

Debts were revoked every 7th year, and again every 50th year (the year of Jubilee).

"Every fiftieth year ... shall be holy, a time to proclaim liberty throughout the land to all enslaved debtors, and a time for the canceling of all public and private debts" (Lev. 25:8-10).

"At the end of every seventh year there is to be a canceling of all debts! Every creditor shall write ‘Paid in full’ on any promissory note ... No one will become poor because of this, for the Lord will greatly bless you ... if you obey this command.

"If ... there are any who are poor, you must not shut your heart or hand against them; you must lend them as much as they need. Beware! Don’t refuse a loan because the year of debt cancellation is near at hand! If you refuse to make the loan and the needy man cries out to the Lord it will be counted against you as a sin. You must lend him what he needs, and don't moan about it either! For the Lord will prosper everything you do because of this! There will always be some among you who are poor ... You must lend to them liberally" (Deut. 15:1-11; also read Neh. 10:31).

 

No bankruptcy was necessary, and no one’s credit score was harmed!

But Proverbs 3:27-28 balances those laws with its advice: "Don’t withhold repayment of your debts. Don’t say "some other time," if you can pay now."

 

I grew to respect laws designed to give debtors a fresh start.

For several years after my layoff the only way we could buy groceries and pay rent was with credit cards. Those cards were, literally, lifesavers. But as we neared their credit limits monthly interest charges would often push us over-limit, and the company then charged us fees that were double our state’s legal limits. (We didn’t know that and paid them anyway.)

One winter we were hit hard with car repairs, computer crashes, and medical bills. We quickly fell a month behind on all our cards, and struggled not to go past two.

Some companies were helpful, and waived their late fees and over-limit fees. Others increased their interest rates, making the problem worse. One company dropped its fees, but put them right back on the same day. It did the same thing the next month. Our debts spiraled nightmarishly.

It didn’t take long to appreciate the Bible’s admonitions to not crush debtors with high interest rates. We learned how easily people who work hard and manage their money well can still be forced into bankrukptcy. And we learned how much the Israelites must have appreciated 7-year and 50-year debt-cancellation laws.

 

What about co-signing for loans and security for debts?

Co-signing may seem like a form of "loving your neighbors," but the Bible always warns against it:

"It is poor judgment to countersign another’s note, to become responsible for his debts" (Prov. 17:18).

More Scriptures: Prov. 6:1-5; 11:15; 20:16; 22:26-27; 27:13.

Personal property could be used as security for debts, but couldn’t affect the borrower’s well-being or ability to work. The lender couldn’t enter the borrower’s home.

"If you take his clothing as a pledge of his repayment, you must let him have it back at night. For it is probably his only warmth; how can he sleep without it? If you don't return it, and he cries to me for help, I will hear and be very gracious to him (at your expense), for I am very compassionate" (Ex. 22:26-27).

More Scriptures: Lev. 6:1-5; Deut. 24:6; 24:10-13; Job 22:6; Ezek. 18:5-13; 33:14-15.

 

How does God react to people who take advantage of others?

God gets angry.

Nehemiah 5:1-13 describes a trial of wealthy individuals who abused the poor: "About this time there was a great outcry of protest from parents ... families who ran out of money for food had to sell their children or mortgage their fields, vineyards, and homes to these rich men; and some couldn't even do that, for they already had borrowed to the limit to pay their taxes.

"‘We are their brothers, and our children are just like theirs,’ the people protested. ‘Yet we must sell our children into slavery to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to redeem them, for our fields, too, are mortgaged to these men.’

"I was very angry when I heard this ... I spoke out.

"‘What is this you are doing?’ I demanded. ‘How dare you demand a mortgage as a condition for helping another Israelite?’

 

"Then I called a public trial to deal with them.

 

"At the trial I shouted at them, ‘The rest of us are doing all we can to help our Jewish brothers who have returned from exile as slaves in distant lands, but you are forcing them right back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them?’

"And they had nothing to say in their own defense.

"Then I pressed further. ‘What you are doing is very evil ... Should you not walk in the fear of our God? Don't we have enough enemies among the nations around us? The rest of us are lending money and grain to our fellow-Jews without any interest. I beg you, gentlemen, stop this business of usury. Restore their fields, vineyards, oliveyards, and homes to them this very day and drop your claims against them.’

"So they agreed to do it ... Then I summoned the priests and made these men formally vow to carry out their promises. And I invoked the curse of God upon any of them who refused.

"‘May God destroy your homes and livelihood if you fail to keep this promise,’ I declared.

"And all the people shouted, ‘Amen,’ and praised the Lord. And the rich men did as they had promised."

 

More Scriptures: Ex. 22:25-27; Job 22:4-6; 24:9-12; Ezek. 22:12-16; Amos 2:6-8; 8:4-7; Zeph. 1:11; Matt. 15:3-9; Mark 7:5-13.

 

 

"The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have" – Leonard Nimoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pepper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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