Day 11

Caring for the Poor

from the reading plan

Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Deuteronomy 15:1-23, Deuteronomy 16:1-17, Luke 4:14-21

On a recent trip to a densely populated city, our five-year-old daughter’s concern for the poor was made unmistakably clear with each outing. Every time we passed someone who seemed to be homeless, she asked questions that were heartbreaking. What struck me the most was her desire to help them with open hands. It was not only sweet, but it was also convicting.

Have you ever wondered if the questions and qualifications that usually cause us to close our hands to the needy are justified? When it comes to the poor in your community, it’s difficult to know their situation or how to help them. But what about fellow Christians, perhaps even the needy in your own church? These are people you ought to know on a deeper, and perhaps more intimate, level. Yet it can still be easy to come up with several reasons why you shouldn’t help them.

In Deuteronomy 15:11 God commends Israel, “open your hand willingly to your poor and needy brother in your land.” As much as I have searched this chapter, I don’t see any ways around this command. When it comes to God’s instruction, Israel was expected to act in obedience. Even more, they had no reason to be disobedient. After all, the earlier exhortation that there should be no poor among Israel (15:4) implies that the bountiful land and laws are more than sufficient to cover for everyone’s needs.

If I were to give my five-year-old unrestricted access to my bank account, she would probably give to anyone in need until our resources were depleted. That may not be the wisest course of action from a financial perspective. But as we consider how generous giving looks in our own lives, we need to consider whether erring on the side of unhindered generosity or scrupulous saving is closer to God’s heart.

This is what is so soul searching about Deuteronomy 15:11. It doesn’t just command generosity, it commands that one also gives willingly. This selflessness is key. When faced with the needs of another, we ought to think of ourselves less. We need to open our hearts in order to open our hands.

This posture of generosity gets easier when we remember that everything we have is already a gift from God. After all, we have more than we ever need in Christ Jesus. He has been more generous to us than we deserve in sacrificing Himself to provide our deepest need of forgiveness and redemption. We come to Christ with no qualifications. All we have is need. Reflecting on His grace to us is what changes our hearts to have open hands towards others. This generosity feels alien to the way the world works—but it is the way the kingdom of God works.

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