“Stumbling Blocks Before the Blind”Categories: Meditations
I maintain that Leviticus is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Pentateuch. It gets no respect. Despite its reputation as the mostest boringest book in the Bible, I find that every year, I come away with something new from reading through it.
Today, for instance, I was struck by Leviticus 19:14, which reads, “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” On its face, this appears to be an instruction not to engage in boorish frat-boy behavior with disabled people: “Look! I can cuss him out, and he can’t hear me! Hur hur hur!”
It is certainly that, but I think there’s a lot more under the surface. Fundamentally, this is a passage about taking advantage of others. You curse the deaf because you can do it and get away with it. You put a stumbling block before the blind because you can do it and get away with it. You’re in a privileged position, and you’re using your privilege to exploit others for your own satisfaction. You do something to somebody because you can, not because you should.
That has a distinctly modern ring to it, doesn’t it? Isn’t this, after all, what the #MeToo scandals are about? You’ve got somebody, usually a man, who is in a position of power and oppresses others for his sexual enjoyment. From Harvey Weinstein to Larry Nassar to legions of predatory clergy, you’ve got evil men who are putting a particular kind of stumbling block before a particular kind of blind person.
Why not abuse the weak and vulnerable? Who’s going to stop you? Them?
Of course, you don’t have to be a criminal to do similar things. How about the mortgage brokers 10 years ago (if indeed the practice has stopped) who were quoting higher rates to minority borrowers than they were to white borrowers? “They don’t know! They’re too dumb to figure it out! Ca-ching!”
How about the Christians who will happily gossip about a brother or sister in Christ? To too many brethren, building yourself up while tearing somebody else down looks like a win-win.
Similar examples abound. As the passage points out, though, such behavior can only come from those who do not fear God. After all, God is in the position of greatest power and advantage. He could use and abuse all of us for His amusement, and there’s nothing we could do about it.
However, God’s very nature is opposed to such exploitation. He seeks our good, not His pleasure. He continually exerts His power for us, not Himself. Rather than taking what we have, He gave us the most precious thing He had.
We don’t have to imagine how He feels about those who do differently. Read through this lens, the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 is about a man who seeks mercy from great power, then uses his slight power to oppress someone else. He acted as he did because he did not fear the king. Not enough.
In our dealings with others, we always must remember that God is watching. If we have a measure of power, it is because He has given it to us. If we are in a place of advantage, it is because He has put us there.
However, He remains the God of both the hearing and the deaf, both the sighted and the blind. If we take advantage of the lowly, He will balance the scale, and we will not enjoy it. If we will not fear Him now, He will reveal why we should have been afraid.