The Beginnings of Christian Reform (16)

You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute (Ex.23:6).

People who don’t have a lot of money are vulnerable to abuse. Why? Those who do have deep pockets can bring some legal challenge against them. The needy person cannot afford expensive legal representation, so they are obliged to pay.

When Nathan visited David over the matter of his adultery and murder of Uriah, he innocuously began their conversation with a parable about men and their sheep, specifically the abuse of a poor man by a rich man. David reacted angrily to this story, saying,

As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion (II Sam.12:5-6).

David’s response to Nathan, indicated he was probably familiar with the above quote from Exodus. As the king of Israel, he certainly should have been, because God’s law required of every king, that

… when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes (Deut.17:18-19).[1]

No doubt this happens frequently in private matters between individuals. But there has never been a greater culprit than governments, when it comes to their ability to exploit “your needy brother.” It’s happening all over the world, today. The further governments turn away from God and His Word, the more it happens. In that way, it’s predictable.

One clear way this is done, is through taxation. Governments may attempt to gain credibility with voters by low tax rates on the poor, but the needy state of the poor makes them appealing targets. Hit and hurt them with a big, unjust tax bill, and they are pretty defenceless. Or worse, make allegations against them, alleging they haven’t paid their taxes, and prevent them from carrying on business until an exorbitant bill has been paid.

This has happened recently in Australia to a group of low-paid contractors, all abused and sometimes put out of business by the Australian Tax Office over fabricated allegations of tax evasion. Documents which would have exonerated the hapless contractors, were “lost” by the ATO.

Is anybody ever held to account for such evil? No.

Bureaucracies are notoriously difficult to bring to account for their transgressions, and the ATO is certainly a bureaucracy. But they must be brought to account, because what’s taken place is abusive and evil. The Westminster system of government requires Ministerial accountability. If the relevant Minister cannot discharge his tasks competently, the electors can act on this. That gives the Minister incentive!

This kind of abuse of the needy is one that should lead to challenges from Christians. When people or institutions get away with transgressions related to the abuse of power, it only emboldens them to repeat the process.

 I did it once; I’ll do it again!

Let’s say a group of church ministers in an electorate called a meeting with their local Parliamentary member, presenting him with a list of people who’ve been unfairly treated by the ATO, along with any relevant documentary evidence, asking for assistance, telling him that their church members, who number ….. voters, are all “interested” to hear of the outcome of their representations. They tell that Member, they’ll be back to see him in six months from now.

Electoral majorities of 2-3% are very common in Australia. That local member now has a limited amount of time to get results, or see his slim electoral majority endangered. That should encourage him to be somewhat vigorous in his actions, on behalf of those church ministers! Perhaps a Parliamentary Enquiry (which he instigates) into the activities of the Tax Office with people of his electorate would be a good idea?

This would simply be an example of the Church being salt and light in the community, acting to protect the innocent against a despotic government department, abusing its power.

Wouldn’t you be proud of your minister for involving himself in that? And wouldn’t that be a good thing, both for the violated individuals, the church and the health of the community?

It’s one way we start to rebuild our reputation. It’s one way to begin reform.

[1] The Australian Federal Treasurer, Joshua Frydenberg, is an Orthodox Jew.

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