FAITH IN FOCUS: THE YARDSTICK
It’s too easy to repeat parrot-fashion that we must love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves. What on earth does this involve? It’s such a broad thing that it seems to lose any practical meaning.
The Jews had a very efficient way of measuring love of God and neighbour. Three categories of people were used as a yardstick: strangers, widows and orphans. These people represented the disenfranchised of society, the truly vulnerable, those who had no social or economic support to back them up in trouble came on the horizon.
Strangers or foreigners were, by nature, in a foreign land and lacked the network of friends and family, of framework and familiarity. People cheated them because of the ignorance of local currency values and their inability to speak the language.
Widows had no man to stand up for them. Intolerable language in the twenty first century but, in the first century, women were at the mercy of a male-dominated society and widows were at the bottom of the pile. Orphans were clearly vulnerable in a culture that could use children in so many unacceptable ways.
But we still have to love the strangers, widows and orphans today. Who are today’s strangers? We don’t mean tourists, but what about the growing file of refugees that search for a better life in other countries other than their own? What about those who seek asylum from torture or death in the native land? They are today’s strangers. And today’s widows? Women have fought for their rightful voice and pensions have eased the economic isolation.
Perhaps the modern widows are the single mothers, the lone parents and those who have been abandoned? Who are today’s orphans? We no longer have queues of orphans, orphanages have largely been closed down. Yet we need not look very far to see children who are abandoned to their own devices by adults who have no parenting skills, young people who are sexually exploited or employed for long hours in the sweat shops of the world.
We have our own modern-day strangers, widows and orphans. And, just as in days gone by, we show how much we love God and neighbour by the way we respond to these people in our midst. The yardstick still applies.