The Pursuit of Holiness (Leviticus) - Lesson 11

By Glen Pemberton

Lev 19

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. The student will recall the basic principles of holy behavior toward a neighbor.
  2. The student will identify and discuss the persons or groups for whom holy neighbors will have special concern.
  3. The student will discern the connection between our relationship to God and our actions (and attitudes) toward other people.


  1. A Bible for each Student.
  2. A chalk board or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #11 ("Social Holiness")


The second topic in our study of the Holiness Code (Lev 17-26)is social behavior. The practice of holiness must dictate our attitudes and actions towards others. Leviticus 19 identifies six general principles of holy neighbors. Holy neighbors do not steal, cheat, lie, pervert justice, or slander others. Rather,those who are holy love their neighbors as themselves. After a brief review of these basic principles, this lesson especially focuses on the persons or groups for whom holy people must have special concern in Lev 19: the poor, the alien (foreigner), the disabled, and the elderly. Love for God cannot be divorced from love for people (I John 4:20). A holy neighbor must love,help, and be an advocate for those that our world pushes aside.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class


  1. Welcome visitors and make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests and leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences

  1. Review and set the stage for today's study.
    1. Open your Bibles to Lev 18.
    2. For the past two weeks, we have been studying the"holiness code" in Lev 17-26.
      1. This name stems from two fundamental concerns in the text:
        1. A dominant concern for holiness. The Hebrew term translated (most often) as "holy" or "be holy" occurs 85 times in these chapters alone!
        2. A passionate concern that holiness must influence every aspect of life. Holiness must be displayed in religious rituals (e.g., worship) and day to day behavior.
      2. Consequently, the holiness code is precisely what this title implies: A code of conduct for a holy lifestyle.
    3. Last week we examined the code of holiness for sexual relationships.
      1. Q. Can anyone recall the three forbidden sexual relationships in Lev 18? A. Marriage (and sex) with a near relative, homosexuality, and bestiality.
      2. Q. Can anyone recall the reasons for obeying the Lord's standards of holiness in sexual relationships? A. Allow the class time to reflect and discuss this topic. Go back and Read Lev 18:1-5.
        1. The Lord's point is clear: You must not live by the moral standards of Egypt or Canaan - but by my standards of holiness.
        2. Q. Why? A. Two reasons in the text:
          1. The Lord is your God. You serve and belong to the Lord, not the gods of Egypt or Canaan.
          2. The Lord's standards promote the full lifeGod has always intended for his human creation.
    4. Today we will examine another topic in the holiness code from Lev 19.
      1. Once again, there is a prologue to this text. Read Lev19:1-2. (WKSH - You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God and holy)
        1. As we have seen before, Israel is called to imitate the holiness of her God: Be holy - because your God is holy!
        2. In this chapter, however, the focus is not on sexual relationships (as in Lev 18), but on social behavior. In other words, Lev 19 presents a code of conduct for how to be a holy neighbor.
      2. For the sake of convenience, we are going to organize this material into two categories. (We will attempt to cover the first category quickly in order to have extra time to discuss the second.)
        1. The general principles of being a holy neighbor.
        2. The special concerns of a holy neighbor.
  2. The general principles of a holy neighbor (6) (WKSH - General Principles of Holy Neighborly Behavior)Read Lev 19:11. Q. What are the principles of holy behavior in this verse? A. List and discuss A-C below.
    1. Holy neighbors do not steal from others. WKSH
      1. Q. How might we state this principle in positive terms? A. Holy neighbors respect the property and possessions of others.
      2. Q. Does this principle of holy conduct surprise anyone? A. Probably not.
      3. This is a fundamental pillar for any society: Members of the society must respect the possessions of others and not take what does not belong to them.
    2. Holy neighbors do not cheat others. WKSH
      1. Q. How might we state this principle in positive terms? A. Holy neighbors treat each other fairly.
      2. Q. Again, does this really surprise anyone? A. Certainly not.
      3. Two other texts in this chapter address this same issue.
        1. Read Lev 19:13.
        2. Read Lev 19:35-36. Notice two things about this text.
          1. First, the text addresses what was probably the most common form of cheating in ancient Israel ? dishonest measurements in the market place. Q. What do you think is the most common form of cheating in modern America? A.Discuss.
          2. Second, look at the final phrase in verse36: "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." Q. What is the connection between not cheating others and this statement? Why say this here? A. Again, our behavior is directly tied to the G(g)od we serve.Since the Lord is our God and he has saved us -it is unthinkable that we would cheat other people.
    3. Holy neighbors do not lie to others. WKSH
      1. Q. How might we state this principle in positive terms?A. Holy neighbors are people of truth.
      2. This principle is stated differently in verse 12. Read Lev19:12. Here, the prohibition against lying is made even more case specific: do not make a false oath (either a promise you do not intend to fulfill, or a false statement in court).
      3. All of these ideas are reiterated in the NT (e.g., Matt5:33-37 cites Lev 19:12).Read Lev 19:15-16. Q. What principles of holy behavior are mentioned in this verse? A. List and discuss D-E below.
    4. Holy neighbors do not pervert justice. WKSH
      1. Q. What is the idea here? A. Playing favorites in court ?either in favor of the rich or poor. The key idea is impartiality.
      2. Q. How might we state this principle in positive terms?A. Holy neighbors are committed to justice.
    5. Holy neighbors do not slander others. WKSH
      1. Q. What is slander? A. To spread injurious statements about other people, closely akin to gossip.
      2. Q. How might we state this principle in positive terms?A. Holy neighbors "speak the truth in love" (Eph 4:15).Read Lev 19:17-18. Q. Ultimately, what is the fundamental principle of holy neighborly behavior?
    6. Holy neighbors love their neighbors as themselves. WKSH
      1. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment he quoted this verse. Read Matt 22:36-40.
      2. Q. Explain what Jesus means by the statement "on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." A. This is the heart of the matter. If a person truly loves God and his neighbor, he will not steal,cheat, lie, pervert justice or slander.
    7. Summary of the general principles of being a holy neighbor:
      1. Holiness, we have seen, demands proper attitudes and actions toward others.
      2. As John explained it many years later, "Those who say -I love God,' and hate their brothers or sisters are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen"(I John 4:20).
      3. Social holiness, however, does not stop there. Rather, in addition to core attitudes and actions, holiness reaches out to special groups and persons.
  3. Special concerns of a holy neighbor (4) WKSHRead Lev 19:9-10 Q. What groups or persons do holy people express special concern for? A. List and discuss A-B below.
    1. Holy neighbors express special concern for the poor. WKSH
      1. Q. Here, in Lev 19, what specific form does this concern take? A. Not picking the harvest clean, but intentionally leaving some grain or fruit behind for the poor to gather.
      2. [Application] Q. In what ways could we do the same type of thing today? A. Allow time for discussion.
    2. Holy neighbors express special concern for the alien (a person from another country living within our borders). WKSH
      1. This idea is expanded later in the chapter. Read Lev19:33-34.
      2. Q. In ancient Israel (and today), what special dangers exist for an alien? A. It is relatively easy to take advantage of an alien. They struggle with our language and our culture. They typically have no family support,no legal rights, and often are poor.
      3. Q. How are holy people to treat aliens? A. We are to love them as ourselves! We are to resist the easy opportunities to enrich ourselves at their expense.
      4. [Application]
        1. Q. Do we have any aliens living among us? A.Yes, so many that in the Southwest United States the number of aliens (mostly illegal) is viewed as areal problem.
        2. Q. In what ways is it easy for us to take advantage of aliens? A. Allow time for discussion.You might mention the common practice of hiring aliens at less than a livable wage.
        3. Q. What are some specific attitudes and actions we (as God's holy people) should take toward or for aliens? A. Discuss. If you live in a state significantly impacted by illegal immigration, be prepared for considerable discussion ? be kind ? but also be firm in the proper holy attitudes we must have.
          1. We must love these people as we love ourselves.
          2. We must not take advantage of these people in any way.
          3. Rather, understanding that we too are aliens in this land, we should seek ways of reaching out to these people with God's word and acts of kindness.Read Lev 19:14. Q. What other group do holy people have special concern for? A. Discuss C below.
    3. The disabled (here, both the deaf and blind). (WKSH ?Holy neighbors express special concern for the disabled)
      1. Q. What, specifically, does Leviticus prohibit? Explain. A.Leviticus prohibits:
        1. Reviling (NRSV) or cursing (NIV) the deaf.Explain: Since they cannot hear you, they have noway of knowing what you are saying and cannot defend themselves.
        2. Putting a stumbling block in the path of the blind. Explain: Causing the fall or any type of failure of the blind. Taking advantage of their disability to get them out of the way or have "fun" at their expense.
      2. Q. What is the basic principle? A. As God's holy people we must not take advantage of a disability for our own profit or entertainment ? a callous disregard for the humanity (made in the image of God) of the other person.
      3. Notice briefly, before we discuss applications, how this commandment is directly related to our reverence for God: You do not treat people this way - but you fear/revere the Lord.
      4. [Application] Q. In what practical ways can we live out this principle of holiness? A. Discuss. This discussion might include mention of several ideas:
        1. Are our church buildings (e.g., restrooms, steps,doors, parking) accessible to the disabled? Are our worship services accessible (e.g., can the elderly read the bulletin or the words to the songs, is a person available to sign for the deaf?)
        2. Do we readily assist those who are disabled? Or do we complain every time we hear about theAmericans with Disabilities Act? Does holiness demand that we be at the forefront of those advocating for and acting on behalf of those with genuine disabilities?Read Lev 19:32. Q. What final group do holy neighbors express special concern for? A. Discuss D below.
    4. The aged or elderly. (WKSH ? Holy neighbors express special concern for the elderly)
      1. Q. What attitude does Leviticus advocate toward the elderly? A. Respect (rise and defer to them).
      2. The same type of thing is said earlier in the chapter.Read Lev 19:3. (This is also stated in the TenCommandments, Exod 20:12). The connection between19:32 and 19:3 may not be clear to many of us.
        1. Q. When Leviticus (and Exodus) instructs children to revere or honor their parents, who is the writer addressing? Children (the young) or adults? A.All of these instructions are for adults. In other words, it is the adults that Leviticus says must revere mother and father, not little children(although this is still true).
        2. Q. In the Old Testament, then, when it says we should honor or revere our parents, what does it mean? A. Most likely, it is a reference to elderly parents who are in need. The proper attitude of holiness is to honor our parents by taking care of them as the need arises. This appears to be Jesus' understanding of this commandment (if time permits read Matt 15:3-6).


In addition to the applications in points B-D above, the following topics might be discussed if time permits.

  1. The code of conduct outlined by Lev 19 is very similar to Ephesians 4:17-5:2 (especially 4:17 and 4:25-5:2). Read Eph 4:17-5:2. Q. In what ways is the code of conduct from Ephesians 4 similar to that in Leviticus 19?
  2. Can you imagine a society that fully embodies or lives out the holiness code? (If not, why not?) What kind of society would it be? How would it differ from the world around us? How do you think the world would respond to such a community?Wasn't God's plan for Israel and God's plan for the church to be precisely this kind of community? How are we doing?

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