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In God We Trust - Hebrew Bible and Class Warfare

This post is the second in a series exploring how the thread of Partnership Economics weaves through the ancient texts of the Hebrew Bible, particularly the "Holiness Code" of Leviticus. See the first post here.

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Leviticus 19:13 You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.

Don’t oppress neighbors or laborers, much less rob them. Partner by providing a non-oppressive wage, in full and on time.

Leviticus 19:15 You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.

Simple, straightforward, righteous decisions. Unlike “class warfare” that advocates the attacking of one class by another or the gaining of one class at another’s expense, do not be unjust by being partial to either the poor or the great.

One implication is that “the 1 percent” should not be mistreated simply because they are in the 1 percent. Henri Nouwen has rightly cautioned that a concern for the poor should not “carry with it a prejudice against the rich” (A Spirituality of Fundraising). We should not idolize the rich and great, nor should we demonize them. We also should neither idolize nor demonize the poor. Partnership involves justly seeking the best interest of all partners, rich and poor alike.

Leviticus 19:17 You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.

Another admonition against class warfare, as well as against interpersonal bitterness. Do not harbor resentment by allowing hate in your heart; be frank with your neighbor. Candid, direct communication between aggrieved parties is called for. Shane Claiborne’s line is unfortunately true: too often the problem isn’t that rich and poor people don’t care about each other but that rich and poor people don’t know each other (The Irresistible Revolution).

In our culture this disconnect is used for polarization, economic segregation, and technologically mediated communication. In this climate of class warfare, “reason frankly with your neighbor” is strong medicine. Partnership involves frankness with economic neighbors, not holding hateful attitudes about them or from a distance spouting unhelpful things about them.

Next week's post will continue exploring economic aspects of Leviticus's holiness, including lenders and borrowers. We look forward to you joining us there as well, and please consider sharing this post with those interested in a better capitalism. Thanks!

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