Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Unto the Least

This morning's reading lead me to Deuteronomy 24 and 25. These chapters concern direction and instructions towards the Israelite people. And while some of these no longer apply to lives today, there are many tidbits in here worth looking at twice. Specifically this morning I am looking at verses 17-21.

“True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans, and you must never accept a widow’s garment as security for her debt. 18 Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God redeemed you from your slavery. That is why I have given you this command. 19 “When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the Lord your God will bless you in all you do. 20 When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave the remaining olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. 21 When you gather the grapes in your vineyard, don’t glean the vines after they are picked. Leave the remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows."

There are clear instructions here about caring for those who are less fortunate. When we pay attention to this verse and lend a hand to those who need it, it is as if we are helping God himself. These verses give a unique way of helping the poor. You notice that it doesn't say that the Israelites needed to harvest their grain and give some to the poor. It says harvest most of it, and leave some for the poor so that they can work for it themselves. It doesn't say harvest your grapes and give some to the poor. It says pick your grapes, but don't go for a second picking- leave those for the poor to come behind and pick for themselves. He doesn't say to give handouts. He says to give a means to a less fortunate person. When I think of how I can apply this to today, it can be difficult to comprehend.

While I certain that there are people who take advantage of a generous nature, for the most part, those in need are eager to earn what they need, they're just having a hard time of it. I think of some friends of ours who occasionally have a rough patch. And while we could very easily just write them a check or go buy them groceries, it doesn't really help their very nature to want to provide for their family. In our case, Andy used to own a tree service, and every once in a while, he gets a call from someone who wants his expertise to do some work. So he'll call up our friend and ask him to assist in the work, and then they share the profits from the work. Our friend gets to earn a paycheck and a sense of pride for providing for his family and we get the benefit of helping him to do so. I can't tell you how many times God provided for us in the same manner. We would be staring at an empty fridge and an empty checkbook and a friend would call up asking for Andy's help with something. They would pay Andy or send him home with groceries or diapers, and Andy was able to provide for his family.

There are many verses in the Bible about helping the less fortunate. And while everyone is not in a position to provide a job or provide money, there are always opportunities. You go grocery shopping and cereal is on sale, so you add an extra couple of boxes to your shopping cart for the local food pantry, or you drop off a bag of gently used clothing at your community resource center. There are so many opportunities, and God has commanded us to take advantage of those opportunities. I think this is important to think on and pray on this time of year. People in need receive all sorts of assistance at the holiday time, and this is the time of year when they tend to get forgotten. It can be just as helpful to provide a need to them as it can be to pray for them. Is someone in your life struggling with a need? Just ask them if you can pray with them about it. That simple act will lift their spirits, and maybe give them the needed boost to go get that dream job or find work.

I'll leave today with another verse from Leviticus 25:

35 “If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. 36 Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. 37 Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

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