Deuteronomy 15:11 (CSB)
11 For there will never cease to be poor people in the land; that is why I am commanding you, ‘Open your hand willingly to your poor and needy brother in your land.’
This is a tough passage for the modern Western church. God is pretty clear here: if there are poor among God’s people, the “church” for us today, then those with the means are commanded to lend to them, not encouraged, but commanded. A lot for us to learn here.
- It is a loan. Deut. 15:8 says to “freely loan him enough.” But we are to loan not what we want, or what we think we can realistically recoup, but we are to loan “enough for whatever need he has.” And further, Deut. 15:9 warns us to not loan based upon the proximity of the year of debt cancellation. If it is the 6th year, our loan should be the same as if it was year 1.
- This passage is not concerned with why someone might be in poverty, but it is concerned with our reaction. There is no mention of only loaning to someone who just lost their job, but doesn’t have a struggle with drugs. There are no conditions mentioned, nor any command for us to determine the “worthiness” of our poor brother. In fact, notice how that “undeserving” poor person will be the one calling out to God, and we are the ones found guilty! (Deut. 15:9b)
- Is our generosity a reflection of God’s? Obviously something is wrong when in the previous passage God says, “There will be no poor among you,” (Deut. 15:4) yet 7 verses later He says, “For there will never cease to be poor people in the land.” (Deut. 15:11) Way too often, the church is failing here. Way too often, our money trumps God. The poor will always remain with us because we fail to follow God’s commands… that’s the deal.
It is a sad statement that people turn to government for support rather than the church. And it’s a statement about the church, not some political ideology. When we let a brother go without, we are telling God that our money is more important than another human, bearing His image, bought and paid for with the blood of Christ. We can find the means to buy our daily $4 coffee, pay for our unlimited data plans to the tune of $80/month, and buy, and then throw away, more food than we can eat, that would have been a feast for our brothers and sisters. But when presented with the idea of giving money, without the guarantee of being paid back, and do so cheerfully, we shrink. We turn the poor into villains, drug addicts, free-loaders, lazy, manipulators of the system, and any other thing we can think of to justify our own sin. We should strive to use what God has blessed us with for the good of His kingdom, and that includes those that do not have as well. Our real blessing is not the resources we’ve been given, but the open hand, soft heart, and the blessing we will receive from sharing God’s gifts.
Lord, thank You for blessing us. Thank You for making it so that Your people can help Your people! I am sorry for being greedy, for demonizing those that need help in order to continue in my own sin. I pray for a softened heart for all believers, so that Your church would rise up and provide for those in need, and look like the land You intended for Israel: where there will be no poor among us. Amen.