And now, the eighth commandment. How we respect God’s house is directly related to godly stewardship of what we have in our possession, and is the basis for biblical respect for our neighbor’s goods. Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee . . . (Deuteronomy 23:15-25)
When a foreign slave sought asylum in Israel, he was to be granted that asylum (vv. 15-16). Cult prostitution was commonplace among Israel’s neighbors, and the practice was utterly banned in Israel (v.17). In addition, the proceeds from prostitution were also banned (v. 18). Usury was excluded within the covenant community (v. 19). Usury was not banned when the money was loaned to a foreigner (v. 20). No one was forced to make vows, but, when they did, they had to be fulfilled promptly (vv. 21-23). In a vineyard or grainfield, a man could help himself—without bucket or sickle (vv. 24-25).
So we begin with a discussion about escaped slaves. A refugee slave from a pagan nation was to be given asylum. The language is striking—he can settle in that place which he shall choose. This parallels the language God uses concerning how He will choose a place to set His name. He who is vulnerable is not to be oppressed. We know he is a foreign refugee from the language here—"among you." In a fallen world, one of the most striking things about biblical law is how humane and reasonable it is. Consider the features of this law, the sentiments of Job (Job 31:13-15), and the doctrine of Paul (Gal. 3:28). The gospel comes to set men free, but we must also never forget that it is the only thing that can do so.
The next topic concerns the wages of a whore. First, cult prostitution was forbidden. The word used for whore in v. 17 is literally a "holy one," which is how we know it is sacred prostitution. But the holiness is defined by an alien religion and hence is excluded from the holiness of Israel. Reasoning from this, we can see how a harlot should not be permitted to bring in a "thanksgiving vow" for all the good business she has had lately (v. 18). The principle can be extended. God cares where the money came from—"I hate robbery for burnt offering" (Is.61:8). At the same time, we must not be righteous over much (1 Cor. 8:4).
A male cult prostitute is here called a dog, which is not intended for a compliment, and this language is echoed elsewhere in Scripture. Sodomite dogs are excluded from the New Jerusalem also—and we therefore exclude all such dogs from the fellowship of the saints (Rev. 22:15). And if federal civil rights law condemns this as a hate crime, then the law is a fool, and has the same wretched future under the judgment of God as the sodomites do.
Usury is condemned in Scripture but we have to take careful note of what it actually is. This law allows usury to be taken from the foreigner. It is therefore not malum in se, like murder is. The parallel passages make it clear that what is being prohibited is making a profit off a brother going through hard times (Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-37). The language of Scripture on this subject is very strong (Ps. 15:5; Prov. 28:8; Ez. 18:8,13,17). While what we would call investment loans are not in view, we must fulfill what this law addresses first, before we charge off to make our pile. Therefore, love one another.
Particular freewill offerings and vows are a natural way to render thanks to God. Has He blessed you? Then praise Him through your vows (Ps. 56:12; 61:5,8). The vows may be made beforehand, in the time of trouble (Ps. 66:13-15), or perhaps even after the fact (Ps. 116:12-14). But do not fall into the snare of dedicating something rashly, and then reconsidering later (Prov. 20:25). God has no pleasure in fools, so pay what you vow (Ecc. 5:4).
We then come to another law. In some ways, this might be called the paper clip law. We are required to respect the property of others in every reasonable respect. But if you are walking through an orchard not belonging you, and you are hungry, then have an apple. Incidental grazing is not the same thing as harvesting the crop of another (Mark 2:23-24).
God has blessed us with tremendous material blessings. Have we responded in the biblical way? In the first place, we do so by loving God—exuberant Christian living lives beyond the tithe. The modern church lives in the basement—sub-tithe. And secondly, we turn to loving our neighbor—look for opportunities with your brother. They are many.