Exploiting others is sadly common in our fallen world. As Christians, we are called to a higher standard. Throughout Scripture, God makes it clear that exploiting and taking advantage of others is sinful. In this post, we’ll take an in-depth look at what the Bible says about exploiting people, with a focus on key passages and principles.
Exploitation can take many forms – unfair business practices, human trafficking, underpaying workers, etc. At its core, exploitation involves using, manipulating, or taking advantage of others for one’s own benefit or profit. It often involves an imbalance of power that enables the exploitation to take place.
The Bible strongly speaks against exploitation and commands us to treat others, especially the vulnerable, with love, compassion and justice. Exploitation goes against God’s desire for human relationships and community. It is rooted in greed, pride and indifference to the needs of others.
As we explore this topic, we will look at biblical principles, case studies, and practical applications regarding exploitation. My hope is that this post will bring greater awareness to this injustice and provide wisdom for how to combat exploitation in our fallen world.
- Exploitation involves taking unjust advantage of others for one’s own benefit.
- Scripture contains many passages forbidding exploitation and commanding justice/compassion.
- We must defend the vulnerable and speak up for the exploited.
- Combating exploitation requires examining our own motivations and practices.
- Believers should lead the way in ethical business and employment practices.
- Ultimately exploitation stems from sinful human hearts in need of Christ’s grace.
Clear Commands Against Exploitation
The Bible contains straightforward commands against exploiting other people. Here are some of the clearest examples:
“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.” (Proverbs 22:22-23)
“Do not exploit the foreigner or oppress him, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21)
“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15)
“Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 4:1)
These verses clearly forbid exploiting the vulnerable, whether they are poor, foreigners, or slaves. God cares deeply about how those who have power use it. Instead of exploiting people, we are to treat them with justice, compassion and fairness.
The Bible not only forbids exploitation – it calls us to actively defend and care for the vulnerable. For example, Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Case Studies in Exploitation
To better understand what exploitation looks like in practice, let’s examine a few biblical case studies:
Laban and Jacob – Jacob fell in love with Rachel, but her father Laban forced him to work 7 years as payment to marry her. Then Laban deceived Jacob by having him marry Leah first. Laban exploited Jacob’s love for Rachel to get free labor from him (Genesis 29:15-30).
Joseph’s Brothers – Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery in Egypt out of jealousy and greed. They exploited the power dynamic as older brothers to unjustly profit from betraying Joseph (Genesis 37:12-36).
Rich Oppressors – The prophets contain many rebukes of those who enriched themselves by exploiting the poor and weak. For example, Amos speaks against those who “trample on the poor and take from them levies of grain” (Amos 5:11).
Judah’s Sinful Leaders – In Ezekiel’s day, the priests, prophets and princes of Judah exploited the people for dishonest gain. The leaders failed to care for the weak but instead looked out for their own interests (Ezekiel 34:1-10).
Scholars in Jesus’ Day – Jesus rebuked the religious elite of his day for exploiting widows and stealing their property. Their exploitation was rooted in greed and pretense of piety (Mark 12:38-40).
In each case, we see powerful and influential people taking advantage of the vulnerable for their own unjust gain. Their actions went against God’s commands and exploited the inherent imbalance of power.
Principles Against Exploitation
In addition to clear commands, the Bible contains broader principles that reveal God’s disdain for exploitation:
Caring for the vulnerable – Scripture instructs us to provide for the poor and marginalized. The Bible views caring for widow, orphan, foreigner and oppressed as true religion (Isaiah 1:17, James 1:27).
Fair wages – Employers are not to underpay or delay wages. As Jeremiah 22:13 says, “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his own people work for nothing, not paying them for their labor.”
Honest weights and measures – Dishonest business practices like using rigged scales are condemned as abominations to God (Proverbs 11:1).
Generosity, not greed – Passages like Luke 12:15 warn against all kinds of greed. We cannot exploit others while also loving our neighbor.
Power corrupts – Unchecked power often leads to oppression, as 1 Samuel 8 shows in Israel’s demand for a king. This principle requires accountability for all in authority.
Image of God – Every person has immeasurable worth as an image bearer of God. Dehumanization and exploitation deny people’s God-given dignity.
These principles help us evaluate practices, laws, and systems that either allow exploitation or, if just, can prevent it. They are the ethical foundations for ending exploitation.
Our Response as Christians
As Christians, how must we respond when we encounter the exploitation of other people made in God’s image?
Examine our own motivations – Exploitation often stems from greed, indifference, or belief in false stereotypes. We must guard our own hearts from such sinful attitudes.
Be wise as serpents – While being innocent as doves, we must also learn to recognize and expose unjust practices that harm others (Matthew 10:16).
Pursue justice – We should advocate for laws and reforms that provide greater protection and empowerment for the exploited.
Generously care for exploited individuals – Following the Good Samaritan’s example, we should care for those who have been robbed and abused by exploiters (Luke 10:25-37).
Refuse to participate in exploitation – If our investments, purchases or practices enable others’ exploitation, we must stop and make more ethical choices.
Preach the hope of the Gospel – Exploitation stems from sin. Only Christ can change exploiters’ hearts and end cycles of abuse.
May these responses mark us as the light of Christ in an exploited world.
Combating Exploitation in the Church
Sadly, exploitation also happens within the church – whether in fundraising practices,မ mistreatment of volunteers, authoritarian leadership, or scandals of abuse. What unique responsibilities does the church have to combat exploitation?
Model ethical business – Church leaders should be above reproach in their finances and treatment of employees. Churches should lead the way in fair pay and mutually empowering work cultures.
Unmask spiritual manipulation – Some preachers misuse authority to pressure people into giving money. We must boldly confront such spiritual abuse and false gospels exploiting people’s faith.
Act as a prophetic voice – The church as a whole can amplify God’s commands for justice. By exposing evil practices, churches can hold exploiters accountable.
Care for exploited church members – Whether from domestic violence, work injustice or otherwise, churches must provide protection, counseling, aid and support networks for those getting exploited.
Train leaders in power ethics – Acting as Christ-like servant leaders requires learning dynamics of power. Responsible use of power must be taught to combat authoritarianism and abuse.
The church should be a place where the powerless find empowerment in Christ. May the Lord help his bride stand firm against all exploitation.
Application: Our Vulnerability to Exploitation
To conclude this examination of what Scripture says about exploitation, it may be helpful to get personal. How might we ourselves be vulnerable to exploitation? Some factors that increase vulnerability include:
- Poverty – lacking options and resources
- Marginalization – isolation from support and advocacy
- Ignorance – unaware of rights, protections and fair practices
- Desperation – urgency of circumstances impairs judgment
- Power Imbalance – inability to stop mistreatment by authorities
Consider your own position – are you currently at higher risk of being exploited in your workplace, investments, community or home life? What precautions and wise counsel might help protect you? How can you build supportive relationships that could intervene if needed?
Though challenging, taking an honest assessment of our own vulnerability is wise as we learn to avoid and withstand potential exploitation.
Conclusion: An Affront to God’s Justice
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible condemns exploiting others who are weak or vulnerable. Exploitation fundamentally goes against God’s just and compassionate character. It abuses the power dynamics of creation for selfish gain and brings heartbreak instead of human flourishing.
My prayer is that this overview of biblical teaching has brought a fresh awareness of how seriously God views exploitation. May it motivate us to defend the oppressed, reexamine our own hearts and practices, and seek justice in Jesus’ name. By God’s grace, may His people lead the way in tearing down systems that exploit those shaped to bear His image. May Christ’s coming kingdom – where no one will make them afraid – be our inspiration and hope.