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Poverty and Generosity

Today’s reading: Deuteronomy 15:1-18:22

My selection: Deuteronomy 15:11

11 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.’

At first glance it seems like the law contradicts itself here in saying that if they obey there will be no poor in the land (vs. 4) and then saying, “There will never cease to be poor in the land.” There would always be poor but there was also always to be generosity toward the needy (vs. 11). The generosity would insure that although there would always be poverty there would always be immediate relief and care for those who were suffering because of it.

This system called for local, tribal or family attention to the needy. The people of Israel were never to ignore a needy brother. Local and family involvement in welfare would help insure that the system was not abused and that those who were assisted were not also enabled to slide into chronic dependency.

Two things would always be true: the existence of poverty and the command to generosity. The law did not anticipate an earthly kingdom in which either poverty or generosity would cease to exist.

In modern western society, our impersonal welfare system, done at various levels of government, allows the wealthy to dispatch their obligations to the poor without getting personally involved. It allows the poor to work the faceless system and feel that they have a right to permanent assistance, a handout rather than a hand up. Poverty is not diminished but generosity is.

My challenge: Shall we pray?

Lord, help us, who have more than enough, to be generous and involved as we have opportunity. If we are in need, let us seek to be conscientious in using the assistance we get to improve our financial footing so that we can be among those who assist rather than who need assistance. Help us all to be content with what we have and to beware of the love of money.

Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 19:1-22:12

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