Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The call to charity for those in poverty

For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, 'You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'
Deuteronomy 15:11

God's plan for Israel was that a responsible society would help all of its members. If find it interesting that God Himself acknowledges that in any human society the reality of some poverty would always exist. Even in Israel... even in the Promised Land. God said that while Israel existed as a nation, poverty would be a social issue.

We should help those in need. That is a given. The deep question is how. But nowhere in scriptures are we told to expect that by human effort alone the elimination of poverty is possible. Human systems and social orders are too corrupted by sin to achieve this. Instead, God wisely instructed Israel that care for the needs of the poor was a matter of personal moral conviction and action. "YOU... open wide YOUR hand... to YOUR brother... to the needy ... to the poor... in YOUR land." It is a part of good personal character to not ignore the extreme need of those in poverty.

I prefer to view this not in terms of income levels or lack of dollars, but in terms of human need for the basics... food, shelter, safety. The poor of the bronze age Middle East were victimized and often died in starvation and abuse. God would not let His people tolerate and perpetuate that kind of treatment of the neediest people made in His image. Instead, care for the poor meant employing them (read the rest of Deuteronomy 15) and feeding the poorest of them. Lives would be saved and grateful service rendered in return (Deuteronomy 15:16-18). So charity from the heart can fend off the worst parts of extreme poverty.

- Posted with my iPad. The Apple Kool-Aide tastes fine.

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