Who is My Neighbor? (Leviticus 19:33-34)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

Leviticus teaches that Israelites must not “oppress” resident foreigners (Lev. 19:33). (The same Hebrew verb appears in Lev. 25:17, “You shall not cheat one another.”)  The command continues, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:34). This verse is a particularly strong example of the unbreakable connection in Leviticus between the moral force of the law (“love the alien as yourself”) and the very being of God, “I am the Lord your God.” You do not oppress foreigners because you belong to a God who is holy.

Resident aliens, along with widows and the poor (see Lev. 19:9-10 above), typify outsiders lacking power. In today’s workplaces, power differentials arise not only from nationality and gender differences, but also from a variety of other factors. Whatever the cause, most workplaces develop a hierarchy of power that is well known to everyone, regardless of whether it is openly acknowledged. From Leviticus 19:33-34, we may conclude that Christians should treat other people fairly in business as an expression of genuine worship of God.