In times of spiritual doubt (which is a lot of times), I often go back to reading the Daily Office from the Book of Common Prayer. Right now it is still Easter season, and the lectionary has readings from the Gospel of Matthew, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians (the New Testament text that is the source of “the Rapture”), and the book of Leviticus.
Certain kinds of Christians love to quote Leviticus, despite Paul’s frequent insistence that the Law of Moses is not binding on Christians. They don’t quote the parts about not eating shellfish, or not wearing clothes made of linen (a plant product) and wool (an animal product) interwoven, or how to make the sacrifices in the Tent of Meeting (or Tabernacle in older translations). They love to quote bits that can be used against LGBTQ people when taken out of context, as I’m sure my readers know.
But they also don’t quote the parts of Leviticus that are like this, from this morning’s Daily Office readings:
When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the LORD your God.
You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another. And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God: I am the LORD.
You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning. You shall not revile the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.
You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
I see Christians of a certain type, usually the type who quote Leviticus to justify their hatred for queer people like me, doing stuff like this every day. Or not doing it. Leaving crops incompletely harvested so that poorer people can glean? How can you make a profit doing that? Swearing falsely by the name of the LORD? I think that translates to committing perjury with one hand on the Bible. Not holding back a worker’s wages? Hm, sounds like wage theft to me. Reviling the deaf and putting obstacles in front of the blind? Reminds me of Trump making fun of that disabled journalist.
The Old Testament, or the Tanakh, to use its proper Hebrew name, is chock-full of texts like this, condemning the exploitation of workers and of the land, calling for impartial justice in the courts instead of favoring the wealthy, insisting that “strangers” or “aliens”, i.e., immigrants, be treated with compassion, and telling people not to slander others or lie under oath. Yet Christians who claim to love THE BIBLE above all things somehow have never read those parts… or just decided to ignore them.
I wonder if they’ve read that parable about the sheep and the goats….