Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it (Proverbs 3:27).
Our church has been reading in Isaiah and Jeremiah recently. I have been struck that the LORD is personally offended when those in power work to oppress others:
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Is 1:16-17).
“Wicked men…they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. Shall I not punish them for these things?” declares the LORD (Jer 5:26, 28-29).
God is offended by oppression, because His law required mercy for others:
“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry (Ex 22:21-23). Oppression of vulnerable people is rebellion against God.
But even more so, I think that He is grieved because we are called to imitate Him and this is what is said of Him:
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing (Deut 10:18).
Jesus was angered by religious leaders who ignored this important part of their service to God:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former (Matt 23:23).
In fact, Jesus required greater humility and love for others than had been required in the Law.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘˜An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you (Matt 5:38-42).
What does all this mean in our lives??? God says again and again that we are to be about loving people, for His sake. And He recognizes the good that we do for others, as an offering to Him.
But do you ever struggle? Do you withhold good, when it is in your power to do it? My husband and I both struggle with this. Wretched birth order! We are two “babies of the family”, married to each other. We have an old joke about it: when one of us needs something like the TV remote or a glass of water, we simultaneously say, “You’re closer than me!” We laugh…but we have struggled with this in the nineteen years we have been married. I see how this offends the Lord, Who has done so much for me. My new mindset: I make my offering to Him, when I act as a helpmate to my husband.
His Word instructs us and encourages us to keep our eyes on Him:
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had (Phil 2:3-5, NLT).