On Poverty and Social Obligations (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)

Although I no longer regard the Bible as more than literature created in the human mind and crafted by human hands, I nonetheless do find this ancient material interesting, if not downright fascinating.  And more specifically, I find certain sections of the writings contained therein reasonable if not downright practical.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 is just such a very passage.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it speaks of the human condition as it truly is.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it speaks of the reality of poverty.

Deuteronomy 15 makes sense to me because it offers a realistic and practical resolution to the realities of poverty.

The following is the text of Deuteronomy 15:7-11; which is very specific as to the obligations imposed by the Hebrew culture as to the real world issue of poverty.  (The text is copied and pasted from biblegateway.com.  The bold lettered emphasis is mine)

DEUTERONOMY 15:7-11:

7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:

8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.

9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee.

10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.

11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

My comments:

1.  This passage addresses the realities of the human condition:  “the poor shall never cease out of the land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

2.  This passage addresses the fundamental problem with regards to how those with money all too oftentimes tend to relate to the poor.

  • Hesitantly

  • Begrudgingly

  • Resentfully

3.  This passage is clear as to the responsible party with regards to resolving the issue of poverty.

  • The responsible party was those with the means to resolve the issue of poverty.

  • The responsible party was those who had the money to give to the poor.

4.  This passage is clear as to the obligations of those with the means to assist the poor and with the money to give to the poor:

  • They were to give to the poor.  Period.

  • Even if the timing was such that the loaner would likely not receive back the full money, because of “the year of release” (cf Deut 15:1-2).

  • Those with the means were to give to the poor.  Period.

5.  This passage is clear as to the attitude with which those with the means were to assist the poor:

  • Freely

  • Willingly

I regard Deuteronomy 15:11 as a passage which addresses the realities of the human condition and the resolutions thereof in an unmistakably clear and concise social commandment:

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”

Oh that humanity never had to suffer the condition of poverty; but so many do. (Deut 15:11)

Oh that humanity would periodically release the debt of the poor; with no conditions and no  strings attached; if only they would.  (Deut 15:1-2)

Oh that humanity would “open wide” their hand and their hearts to the poor and the needy… if only they could see it in their deepest sense of compassion to do so…..

Oh that humanity cared as much about the suffering of others in this world, in “the here and the now”; as they do about the fear of their own suffering in “the afterlife”……

“open wide thine hand unto thy brother, to thy poor and to thy needy, in thy land”…..

Plenty of opportunities out there to do so……

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3KoJj4dz2I

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One thought on “On Poverty and Social Obligations (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)

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