Exodus 23:2-3

Exodus 23:2-3: “You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, (3) nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.”

I want to focus on verse 3, but I included verse 2 simply because I like it, and thought it was worth including. In God’s law, there is no room for the possibility that morality is dependent upon the will of the majority. Contrary to popular belief, America was not founded upon this principle of pure democracy. Democratic elements were included because the people are the ones best able to keep the state accountable to the rule of law, immutable moral standards. The law of God supersedes the law of the many. Even if the many are strong, and are visible, the God who is invisible will hold you accountable and His judgement makes the greatest of earthly pains seem as the sweetest of pleasures.

This 3rd verse can be hard to swallow, especially in our culture. It tells us that we are not to show favoritism towards a poor man simple because he is poor. If a poor man brings a lawsuit, but the evidence can not support his claims, it is unjust to rule in his favor. There is an even deeper principle here, the law can not show favoritism to the poor man in any way. Does not the welfare state break this principle? This verse ensures that, according to R. Rushdoony’s commentary on this law “false…accusations are to be avoided, lest it lead to the injury or death of innocent men.” In the welfare state, the law steals from the money earners in order to give to the man who did not earn it. The law can only take from men who have done wrong, but by taking from money earners to give to others, the state is stealing. While it is a moral positive (a good thing) to share with those in need, economic equality is not synonymous with justice…. if they were synonymous, it would mean that stealing is not unjust because it would then be okay to steal in order to have ‘justice’ (economic equality). Therefore, as long as we must conclude that stealing is wrong as God’s law states, economic equality does not equal justice.

Romans 13 tells us that the role of the state is to punish wrongdoers and reward those who do good. The state can only do this correctly if it is impartial. The state must be color, and class, blind. If the state goes beyond this limited scope, it can not maintain justice. If the state decides to take from the rich to give to the poor, it has suddenly lost its class and color blindness, and its partiality. Who can then tell the state that it must be just? Why does this idea make, at least some of us, uncomfortable?

The reason we find this idea hard to swallow is that our minds are caught in a statist bubble, we confuse government and society and assume that all action in society must be done by the state. Frederic Bastiat, a French classical liberal who was writing in response to the rise of Socialism in Europe in his day says this: “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all.”

Because of the chic political and social thought of our times, we practically assume that if something must be done or changed in our society, the state must do it. We find Exodus 23:3 disconcerting because it seems to keep provisions for the poor outside the realm of the state, therefore we could be led to believe that God does not want the poor helped at all. We know, however, that this is not the case. Consider these other passages from the Old Testament, and the New:

Deut. 15:7. If there is a poor man among you, one of your brothers, in any of the towns of the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand to your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

Deut. 26:12. When you have finished paying the complete tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, that they may eat in your towns, and be satisfied.

Lev. 19:19ff. Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the LORD your God.

Luke 12:33. “Sell your possessions and give to charity;

God’s commandments are binding because they are God’s. His commandments, whether it is a command that should be translated into law, or not, are God’s supreme commandments. The fact that care for the poor does not belong to the sphere of the state does not change our imperative to show the love of Christ and share the gospel with the poor. To the contrary, it is only by our hands and feet (and not the impersonal force of the state) that Christ can be shown to the poor, and they need the love of Christ much more than a check from the government. If we feel uncomfortable with the idea that the state should not force us to help the poor, perhaps we have placed more trust in the state’s ability to spur us to action than God. Maybe we hold the state’s law higher than God’s. Maybe we have placed our faith in man, not in God. We should fear God’s command much more strongly than that of the state, and His commands affect all aspects of our lives with equal force.

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~ by thelastinkling on June 21, 2009.

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