“I worked for you through the scorching heat of the day and through cold and sleepless nights. Yes, for twenty years I slaved in your house! I worked for fourteen years earning your two daughters, and then six more years for your flock. And you changed my wages ten times! In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!”—Genesis 31:40-42, NLT
After 20 years of arduous work, Jacob achieved what many temporary foreign workers strive for—he returned to his country of origina with his earnings. Jacob never precisely intended to immigrate to Haran, but rather to seek refuge and work there temporarily. We can distinguish diferentes categories for classifying foreigners—immigrants, temporary workers, refugees, etc.—but they all remain in God’s view and in God’s heart.
No foreign worker will be surprised that Laban took advantage of Jacob in changing his wages several times. Both the employer and the worker know that the low price of immigrant labor motivates the arrangement in the first place, and even when other motivations do not figure into the price of labor, supply and demand still affect it. In Jacob’s situation, however, other motivations mattered. As the old saying goes, “blood is thicker than water,” and although Laban was Jacob’s uncle, he showed a corrupt preference for his own sons and against his daughters, the wives of Jacob. Psalm 69:8 comes to mind: “I am a foreigner to my own family, a stranger to my own mother’s children” (NIV). In any case, the motivations of corruption are always banal.
Almost all immigrants have some story of corrupt bosses who have mistreated them. Instead of becoming bitter, they ought to pay close attention to the message Jacob announced to Laban: “God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why he appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” God has the foreigners in view and also those who who abuse them. God will vindicate the just and rebuke the abuser.
But pay close attention to this question also: “Do you fit perfectly into the category of the just? Before demanding the judgment and rebuke of the unjust, it pays to examines one’s own self. Those who do so will cleanse themselves of injustice and abuse. Those who have not achieved perfection should call out to God for mercy, both for themselves and for those who mistreat them. As Jesus taught us: “love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. (Matthewe 5:44-45, NLT).
Of course, those who assert their rights do nothing wrong,. But love and prayer for our enemies guarantees a just state that human courts do not recognize and cannot concede to any individual. God sees the just and will defend them.
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is President of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the Author of Your Deepest Dream: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life and The Kingdom Net: Learning to Network Like Jesus. Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.