31 March – 6 April 2019.
A few years ago a big business leader in Taipei angrily told me that churches should stay out of economic discussions and just focus on teaching people about life in heaven. We had been debating economic reforms, the need to care for the poor, as well as the importance of seeking a fair economic system for all people in Taiwan.
But for that business leader, he didn’t think the church had any right to meddle in economic issues at all. I had to tell him that the Bible actually contains over 2,000 verses that discuss money, and hundreds more that talk about poverty reduction, fair work, social justice, and the fair use of wealth. God doesn’t just care about life after death, he cares about our real lives here and now in this world. God cares about fairness in society, and about the real financial struggles we are going through.
We see just one example of this in Numbers 36.
Back in Numbers 27 we read about the special case of the daughters of Zelophehad. These women argued that it was unfair for their father’s name and property to be wiped out simply because he had no sons to inherit that property. Nor was it fair to these daughters to be left in economic distress just because society didn’t allow women to inherit property. Moses agreed, and he gave them permission to inherit their father’s land. But now their special case is raised again because the clan leaders have realized that if these young ladies end up marrying men from outside the clan, those new husbands will take the father’s property and it will be lost to the whole clan forever. This wasn’t a small problem. Land in Israel was limited, and so for a clan to lose property meant that there would be less farmland to support their families now, and even less land for future generations to live and work on. This change in inheritance law would then make it harder for future generations to survive economically. People would have less hope, less options, and face greater financial risk.
Wisely Moses, as God’s representative, doesn’t just dismiss those concerns and tell people to worry about heaven instead. He doesn’t say that God only cares about spiritual matters and not about economic justice here in the world. Moses knows that God is concerned about our real lives, about our daily troubles as well as the real lives and future needs of our children. And so Moses finds a solution that protects not only Zelophehad’s daughters, but also the clan, as well as the future generations to come.
This is a great reminder to us. As the people of God, we too can never just forget about the economic troubles in our society today. Instead we know that because God is so concerned with economic justice, because Christ and the Bible teach so much on this topic, it’s important that we too follow God in working to make our society a much better and much fairer place.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis