Lesson 5

The Stranger in Your Gates

(Deuteronomy 10, Mark 12, Deuteronomy 24)
Print this lesson | Bookmark/Share:

Introduction: “NIMBY” is an acronym that casts light on insufficient thinking, hypocrisy, and in some cases our failure to treat others in a way consistent with the teachings of the Bible. So what is NIMBY?  It stands for “Not in my backyard.”  A NIMBY would say “I fully support low-cost housing for the poor, I fully support generating electricity from windmills, but I completely oppose the low-cost housing and the windmills being located in my neighborhood! Let’s dive into our Bibles and see what it teaches us about the weakest members of society, and then let’s test our hearts and our minds with a logical application of that teaching!

  1.         Be Open to Advice

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 10:12. What expectations does God have of us? (To fear and love God. To walk in His ways. To do so willingly.)

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 10:13. The ESV, the KJV, and the NIV all end this verse with a question mark. Assuming the translators have captured the sense of this sentence, why would God make this a question? (God is asking us to think about this. In past lessons we discussed that the purpose of the Ten Commandments is to make our lives better and to bring glory to God. God wants us to contemplate that.)

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 10:14-16. Verse 16 is a real word picture! What do you think God wants from us when He asks us to refrain from being stubborn? (He asks for an attitude change. Be open to Him. Don’t continue to do things simply because you or your family have always done it one way.)

  1.         Read Psalms 51:10. Can you change your attitude? (The Psalmist calls on God to change his heart and to give him a right spirit. The Holy Spirit can change our attitudes if we ask.)

  1.         Be Fair and Loving?

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 10:17. What is your fear when someone in power can make a decision affecting your life? (You fear the person in power will be biased. If you live in a corrupt country, you fear decisions will be made based on the exchange of money.)

  1.         How does God approach His decision-making? (He is impartial and He does not take bribes.)

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 10:18 and Psalms 146:9. What do the fatherless, the widow, and the sojourner have in common? (They lack power. In the structure of society they have no influence.)

  1.         Notice that the fatherless and widow are treated differently than the sojourner. The first two get justice. The sojourner gets loving assistance. Why the difference?

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 10:19. Does this explain the difference? (Yes. It repeats the command to love and it is based on God’s people being “sojourners in the land of Egypt.”)

  1.         That is an interesting context. How were God’s people treated in Egypt? (They were enslaved. I think the point is that we should consider how we would like to be treated.)

  1.         The Hebrew word for sojourner means “guest” or “stranger.” Someone who is passing through. In the United States we have an unprecedented issue of huge numbers of citizens of other countries illegally entering our country - and they do not seem to be passing through. Do they qualify as “sojourners?”

  1.         If the command was (as with the widows and orphans) to give them “justice,” then they would not be allowed to enter because they know they are violating our laws. Justice requires that they follow the established legal rules for entry. But, “love” (in terms of food and clothing) is what is required. Does that change your thinking about how those illegally in the country should be treated?

  1.         Look again at the first part of Deuteronomy 10:18 which calls for “justice” for the weakest members of society. I’ve seen many reports and videos of the people coming across our southern border. All of them are clothed and I’ve heard no reports (amazingly) of them having trouble with hunger. Most seem to be coming to make more money. Is that what you have heard? Is this factually accurate?

  1.         If you agree that justice for the powerless in society is a Biblical principle, contemplate the following. The people illegally entering our country will not be competing for jobs with those in power in our society. Instead, they will be competing, and driving down the income, of those in our society who have the least power because they have few job skills. Should Christians consider justice for current citizens as part of how we should approach the issue at our Southern border?

  1.         Look again at Deuteronomy 10:18. What is the standard of care that our God of love shows towards the sojourner? (He gives him food and clothing.)

  1.         The most common report that I hear is that people coming illegally into our country are looking for a better way of life - to be free and to earn more money. Is that within the Biblical standard of care? Or, does it exceed it?

  1.         Read Mark 12:29-31. Let’s ask the NIMBY questions. Are you willing to take into your home anyone who has food and clothing, but makes less money than you do? How about people who have a smaller home?

  1.         Are you willing to do this on a permanent basis? Does Mark 12:31 suggest this should be done?

  1.         Read Exodus 20:17. I own one of the larger homes on my street.  But, I’ve seen (especially with the help of television and the Internet) plenty of homes that are much larger than mine. Would it be right for me to demand to live in a larger, richer home?  

  1.         Would the larger, richer home owner fail in his love obligation to me if he told me I could not live with him? (No. And it would not cross my mind to demand that someone who is wealthier than I am share his wealth with me. Such a demand would, in my mind, violate the commandment against coveting. That is the standard that I apply to myself.)

  1.         Standard of Care

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 24:10-11. What is a pledge? (It is collateral for a loan.)

  1.         What attitude does this require of the lender? (Respect.)

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 24:12-13. What do you think is the collateral here? (A man’s coat or his blanket.)

  1.         What does this instruction require of us, and what does it say about the NIMBY questions I asked? (Imagine making a loan to a person whose only asset is his coat! Yet, this is allowed. This does not require the lender to give money to a person simply because they are poor. However, it does require the lender to be kind.)

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 24:14-15. What is the standard of care here? (To pay the poor worker on the day that he completes his work.)

  1.         Why? (This is apparently the agreement. The text says that the worker “counts on it.”)

  1.         How is the poor sojourner treated with regard to business arrangements? (The same as other workers.)

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 24:17-18. Is this what God means when He says to love the sojourner? Is God equating love with justice? (He is requiring justice for the sojourner. But note that this is justice tinged with love. We see this in the instruction not to take the widow’s garment as collateral.)

  1.         Read Deuteronomy 24:19-21. Do the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow have to work for their food? (Absolutely. God could have said collect the food left behind and deliver it to the poor. Instead, God said let the poor harvest what is left over.)

  1.         What does this say about the “richer” farmer keeping more food for himself? (The standard of care is loving justice. It is not making everyone equal. It requires the poor to work and it requires that justice be done - that the rule of law be honored.)

  1.         Do you have any experience that shows that the “justice is love” approach of Deuteronomy is the best way? (I have found that when I just give someone something, they do not properly appreciate it. On the other hand, when they earn it they are very careful with it.)

  1.         Friend, God asks us to consider His standard of love for our fellow humans. This standard is full of common sense and a respect for property rights. It demands equal justice for all. It requires kindness and a consideration of how we would like to be treated. Will you be an advocate for God’s approach to the powerless in society?

  1.         Next week: For What Nation Is There So Great?

To receive the Bible Study of the Week by e-mail, please enter your e-mail address:

 Subscribe in a reader

Lessons on Deuteronomy

Attention Translators!

Would you like to help us share the Bible Study of the Week with others? At present, the Bible Study of the Week can be read in ten languages: Bosnian, English, French, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Romanian, Russian, and Spanish. We welcome serious volunteers who are willing to spend the time each week to translate the lessons from English into another language. We are particularly interested in having the lesson translated into Portuguese. Please contact us if you would like to volunteer to translate.