Love Those Old Testament Purity Laws!

Posted on February 15, 2011 by David Creech

What follows is an excerpt from a hunger sermon starter for this coming Sunday’s texts.  It is a reflection on Leviticus 19:1-2 and -18 (click here to read the text).  If you would to join the ListServ and receive weekly hunger related reflections on the lectionary, visit this Web page.

“You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2)

Leviticus’ holiness code opens with the command to be holy because God is holy.  In the modern context, we can often equate holiness with piety or inner virtue.   Many of the Old Testament purity laws address ritual impurity, those exterior things that are a threat to holiness.  This week’s lesson adds some (perhaps surprisingly) concrete moral practices to the holiness codes.

Holiness in this text is not simply an inward disposition or avoidance of certain impure things.  God’s people are holy when they leave parts of their fields unharvested for those who are poor and marginalized to glean.  There are many amazing gleaning programs that are feeding many people (see, for example, Feeding America, www.feedingamerica.org; the Society of Saint Andrew, www.endhunger.org; and Foods Resource Bank, www.foodsresourcebank.org).  How else might we leave portions of our “fields” unharvested for those who are hungry?

God’s people are holy by paying just wages.  God’s people are holy when they look out for the interests of those who are vulnerable.  God’s people are holy when they do not profit from the blood of their neighbor (on what this might mean, check out “The Story of Stuff,” www.storyofstuff.org).  By loving one’s neighbor as one’s self—this is not an appeal to how one feels about their neighbor, but a call to action—we bear witness to the Lord.

David Creech

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