We were walking across the parking lot to the grocery store. My son spotted a penny on the ground. “Dad! A penny!!!” He handed it to me and I flipped it back onto the blacktop.
Pennies are a nuisance. The U.S. Treasury might even discontinue them. It actually costs1.8 cents to produce a penny. In 2013, taxpayers lost $105 million on the making of pennies and nickels.
My son picked up the penny again. “Can you even believe this is on the ground?! Should we look for the owner? Maybe they’re missing it. If we can’t find them, can I keep it?! I’ll put it in my piggy bank!”
I saw the penny as insignificant. He saw it as a treasure. He valued what I believed had no value.
In the Bible, there are three insignificant people found throughout the law and the prophets.
The “foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow" are seen as insignificant, and yet Scripture gives them a significant priority. God values them greatly. Take a look at a few examples of this Biblical refrain.
“Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor . . .” (Zech. 7:10).
“You shall not wrong a foreigner . . . you shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Ex. 22:21).
“He executes justice for the fatherless and widow and loves the foreigner” (Deut. 10:18).
“The Lord watches over the foreigner, he upholds the widow and the fatherless” (Ps. 146:9).
“They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow’s cause does not come to them” (Is. 1:23).
“Do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow” (Jer. 7:6).
“. . . those who oppress the widow, the fatherless, and those who thrust aside the foreigner” (Mal. 3:5).
Why does the "foreigner" make the list of three? In short, each of them are voiceless and powerless. The foreigner is a stranger in a land that is not his home. He has no rights and no land. He’s not a citizen, but a second-class person. God has a particular care for those who have nothing. And so the alien, or foreigner, is a Divine focal point.
How Israel as a society treated its insignificant was a test case for how they were living out the covenant. How they treated their most vulnerable was an indicator of their hearts. And when they discarded the insignificant, they witnessed the vicious side of Yahweh. He is the Defender of the defenseless. If you mess with the insignificant, you’re messing with God. And the claws come out.
What does this say about the present refugee crisis in Europe? What does this mean in light of the Paris attacks?
I won't pretend the issues aren't complicated. And that the safety of nations is a priority. But I cannot escape God's attentiveness to this triad of insignificance. The goal of terrorism is to instill fear. I will not allow fear to stop me from caring for the "foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow."
Be reminded of the inscription on the penny. "In God we trust." And to the left of Lincoln it says "Liberty." May our trust in God liberate us from fear, and free us to show Christ-centered mercy to the insignificant.