Economic Justice (Deuteronomy 24:14-15; 25:19; 27:17-25)Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project
Differences of class and wealth can create opportunities for injustice. Justice requires treating workers fairly. We read in Deuteronomy 24:14, “You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns.” Neither the poor nor the aliens had the standing in the community to challenge wealthy landowners in the courts, and thus they were vulnerable to such abuse. James 5:4 contains a similar message. Employers must regard their obligations to their lowest employees as sacred and binding.
Justice also requires treating customers fairly. “You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, large and small” (Deut. 25:13). The weights in question are used for measuring grain or other commodities in a sale. For the seller, it would be advantageous to weigh the grain against a weight that was lighter than advertised. The buyer would profit from using a falsely heavy weight. But Deuteronomy demands that a person always use the same weight, whether buying or selling. Protection against fraud is not limited to sales made to customers, but to all kinds of dealings with all the people around us.
Cursed be anyone who moves a neighbor’s boundary marker. (Deut. 27:17)
Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind person on the road. (Deut. 27:18)
Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice. (Deut. 27:19)
Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood. (Deut. 27:25)
In principle, these rules prohibit every kind of fraud. As a modern analogy, a company might knowingly sell a defective product while oblivious to the moral implication. Customers might abuse store policies on returning used merchandise. Companies might issue financial statements in violation of generally accepted accounting principles. Workers might conduct personal business or ignore their work during paid time. Not only are these practices unjust, they violate the commitment to worship God alone, “for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God” (Deut. 26:19).