We don’t own people, do we?
That’s the awkward question that you have to address when you’re reading what we confessed this past week, the 10th commandment:
“What is the 10th commandment?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his maidservant or manservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.”
“Wife, workers, or animals.” That simple list of three simultaneously offends an amazing number of people. The reason for offense is understandable – it could be interpreted with the idea that wives, workers, and animals are equals in some sort of patriarchal top-down system. Perhaps we would even forgive this if it were something that was relegated to the primitive days of the Exodus, but what do we do with this in 2017?
I think we address it by addressing the concept of loyalty. Essentially that is what Luther says about the commandment. “We do not entice or force away . . . but urge them to stay and do their duty.”
I’m somewhat of an amateur student of what I’ll call “Southernisms” – things that I have heard living in the American South that I didn’t necessarily hear before I was here. One particular Southernism that resonates with this is the phrase “Don’t get above your raising”. There is an element of locatedness in this phrase, and an element of humility – both of which I believe are key ingredients of loyalty.
Because when it gets right down to it, when you are loyal, when you refuse to entice or force away someone else’s help, then you are forced to deal with your own. If the grass is greener on the other side, it’s better to work on your own grass.
As we go into Lent, the first Sunday in Lent traditionally features the Gospel reading of Jesus being tempted by the devil. This is the commandment framework that Satan tempts Jesus with – to covet the things that He has given up in becoming human. Satan is tempting Jesus to get above His raisin’, and to covet that which is not his.
Jesus refuses. He stays. He does His duty – which is to go to the Cross for us. He is loyal to us before we ever have the chance to be loyal to Him. He doesn’t get above His raisin’, in fact, He even goes below it. He doesn’t set up a system that exploits and abuses others, but He serves us.
That’s who He is for us.