Search This Blog

Monday, April 7, 2014

Principle 10: Protect the Helpless

One of the required or mandated "screenings" we must perform in American healthcare with any patient who comes into our clinics, hospitals, etc., is that of "abuse, neglect, or exploitation".  As a result, healthcare providers are obligated to report such suspicions to the various authorities.  A failure to do so could result in serious penalties to the healthcare worker and/or institution. I don't know that these "rules" apply in all countries, though, but they should. Believe it or not, they are scriptural!  There are a variety of individuals in this world who scripture used to refer to as the "helpless" - orphans, widows, and those unable to speak for themselves, such as the mentally handicapped and elderly demented.  As a basis of establishing "fair dealings" with these individuals, scripture warns repeatedly about taking advantage of them.  This may be in the realm of their finances, the use of their time or talent, or even the use of their things - such as lands, physical property, etc.  Just the very hint of any misdealing with these individuals will raise the hair on the back of God's neck, if you get the drift.  He stands as their ADVOCATE - and he doesn't stand alone!  He has a vast army of angels at his disposal!

Don’t stealthily move back the boundary lines or cheat orphans out of their property, for they have a powerful Advocate who will go to bat for them. (Proverbs 23:10-11 MSG)

At the time our passage was written, it was not uncommon for "evil men" to swoop in on widows, taking advantage of their loss and taking away their lands.  It was not the custom for the widow to work - she kept the house, the husband worked the fields, labored with his hands in some trade such as carpentry, etc.  The woman who lost her husband was left without a "bread-winner", so to speak.  She became easy prey for those who were looking to take advantage of the situation.  The warning in our passage is to deal fairly with the helpless - not looking for the advantage one might find in their misfortune.

In today's economy, there are a variety of people who are nothing more than common criminals - we call them scam artists.  They prey on the unsuspecting because they know all the right "buttons" to push to get the individual to trust them and then they go to work bringing ruin into their lives.  Unfortunately, despite news stories which report their misdeeds, websites advising of those scams to avoid, etc., people still get duped into believing the seemingly probable "truth" of the scam artist.  So, they need an advocate - here on earth as much as in heaven above!

There was a principle understood in Old Testament times of the kinsman redeemer.  The nearest kinsman to the widow was to step up to take her in and to care for her needs.  If he was not willing, it could pass to the next kinsman, but her needs were to be cared for within the community of relatives in which she lived.  God planned for the needs of the widow, orphan, and infirm as much as he planned for the needs of the sinner!  He is our kinsman redeemer in the sense of redeeming us from a life of sin, but he is also the advocate who provides a way for the "security" and "safety" of the helpless.

There are various opportunities to care for those who have no "kinsman" close enough to redeem them from their circumstances.  We are charged with the responsibility to always deal fairly with those who cannot defend themselves. When we do, we can be assured of God's approval of our actions.  God deals in both mercy and justice.  He extends mercy to those who reach out to help the helpless, but justice to those who will cross the line and take advantage of their misfortune.  The widow could not provide for the family; the orphan could not defend himself; the infirm have no apprehension of the wrong done to them.  Each holds the special attention of God, and as his ambassadors on this earth, they are to hold our attention, as well.  

We may no intentionally set out to "stealthily move back the ancient landmarks", but whenever we take advantage of anyone's helpless situation, we are engaging in pretty risky business.  Just sayin!