Deuteronomy 15:7–11; 24:10–15, 17–18comment (0)
January 26, 2012
By Joseph F. Scrivner
Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 15:7–11; 24:10–15, 17–18
Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Religion, Department of Religion, Samford University
GIVING IN A GREEDY CULTURE
Deuteronomy 15:7–11; 24:10–15, 17–18
God cares very deeply about those who are unable to protect themselves, particularly the poor, the orphan and the widow. We see this clearly in one Psalm, where God commands: “Provide justice for the needy and the fatherless; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and needy; save them from the hand of the wicked” (Ps. 82:3–4). Another psalmist describes God as one who executes justice for the exploited, gives food to the hungry and lifts up the oppressed (Ps. 146:6–8). Likewise God demands defense of immigrants in the Mosaic law: “You must not oppress a foreign resident; you yourselves know how it feels to be a foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Ex. 23:9).
Share Generously (15:7–11)
In the laws concerning the release of debt, God calls on the Israelites to lend to the needy when it may be the most costly. Specifically, since the law requires relief from debt in the seventh year, some may have avoided lending as that year approached. Yet this is precisely when God calls for the most generosity. God even describes any hesitancy about such sacrificial generosity as “hardhearted,” “tightfisted,” “wicked” and “stingy” (7, 9–10).
Paul expresses a similar sentiment in his request to the Corinthians. He asks the Gentile believers to provide financial support for poor Jewish believers in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25–29; Gal. 2:9–10). He instructs them to set aside money each week (1 Cor. 16:1–4). They should do so willingly, not out of necessity. In fact, such giving makes sure there is some equality among fellow believers: “It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality — at the present time, your surplus is available for their need, so that their abundance may also become available for your need, that there may be equality” (2 Cor. 8:13–14).
Treat With Dignity (24:10–15)
When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus said loving God is the most important commandment. Then He named a second similar commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. These two commandments summarize the Law and the prophets (Matt. 22:34–40). In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus goes further by expanding our definition of “neighbor” (Luke 10:25–37). Indeed Jesus teaches us that concern for the needy should not be limited to those closest to us.
The earlier laws regarding treatment of the poor illustrate Jesus’ point. In particular, Moses prohibits the exploitation of the less fortunate when loans are extended to them. The loan should not force the poor to go without necessities (10–13). Exploitation also is prohibited in the laws on wages for hired labor, whether the worker is a fellow Israelite or an immigrant (14). These workers should be paid daily since their lives depend on it. Failure to do so would incur guilt before God (15).
Protect With Mercy (24:17–18)
Moses’ laws against exploitation continue by requiring justice for the immigrant and the widow. Obedience to these commands demonstrates empathy: You are able to see the other person as you see yourself. Of course, this is the principle of Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Since these commands represent a form of government regulations in ancient Israel, how does that affect a Christian’s view of modern government and societal welfare? What does Paul mean when he says God has instituted human government for good? He commands payment of taxes and calls government God’s “public servant” (Rom. 13:1–7).
Modern believers have debated these questions since at least the Industrial Revolution. Whatever one’s views on any particular issue, we should never forget how terrible working conditions were for the poor before some basic government regulations were enforced. We should ask ourselves what positions our congregations and denomination took in defense of the poor in the past and then prayerfully discern an appropriate position in the present.