"Give generously to the poor..." Deuteronomy 15:10 NLT
As we continue a look at the information God gave Moses for the nation of Israel, God provides instruction on how we are to manage a portion of our monies or income... in charitable giving. This section of teaching is located in Deuteronomy 14:22 - 15:11.
The first rule for money management the Lord provides is to tithe a tenth of one's income to the Lord. The Hebrew word for it is: מַעֲשֵׂר (pronounced mah-as-ayr'). It literally means the tenth part. There is another word for offering. The tithe was a testament of the worshiper declaring God's ability to provide. The purpose God gave for the tithe was to teach everyone to fear the Lord - to reverence Him only, recognizing His providential hand to supply all their needs.
God provided a second rule of money management: to bring the tithe of the harvest to the nearest town (the closest synagogue) and give it to the Levites, who in turn would share it with the foreigners, orphans and widows in each town. By remembering the Levites (14:27,29), God promises to bless all the work of their hands (14:29e).
A third rule of financial management is then provided by God: to cancel the debts of everyone who owes money. This is a most interesting practice, which - of course - is seen as either outdated or non-applicable in today's business practice. God's reason for erasing the debts of their fellow citizens was so there would be no poor among you (15:4). God then assures His great blessings to those who follow His ways. In fact, God echoes this sentiment a second time stating: "You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today." (15:5) God promises Moses these practices will create a financially strong nation: one that would lend to other nations, and would never have to borrow from another nation. God provides a quick lesson by doing so: the debtor is 'slave' to the lender (see 15:6c). This rule did not apply to the foreigners living among them, as foreigners were to demonstrate fiscal responsibility by paying their debts... to do otherwise would have bankrupted the country. We might learn a wise lesson from this practice.
There are three important phrases God shares to conclude His teaching on one's philanthropic responsibility.:
- "...do not be hard hearted..." (15:7) If they see that their neighbors or fellow citizens are struggling financially, they were to proactively lend the resources needed to get them on their feet. It's interesting that this phrase is paired with another descriptor: "tightfisted" . One who is tightfisted has no sensitivity to the financial plight of others. A wise handler of money knows that the status will not change overnight. It will take time. Nevertheless, the resources should be supplied generously to provide whatever they need (to get established). It is quite true that it takes such to build true community, so each member of the community recognizes the mutual worth within their citizens.
- "Do not be mean spirited..." (15:9a) God knows how humans think and calls each of us out on it. He even provides the circumstantial illustration of refusing to provide a loan close to the year for cancelling debts (15:9b); adding the reminder of God's ever watchful eye for those who are poor or oppressed.
- "Give generously to the poor..." (15:10a) God addresses the heart of the issue: our heart attitude. To give generously to the poor, one must be willing to open up hands, pockets, and pocketbooks to provide for those less fortunate. He does not get into the reasons the poor are poor. He does not accuse them of foolish handling of their monies. He does not offer any 'cause - effect' on why the poor are poor. In fact, God simply states there will always be poor living among us (15:11). Jesus echoed this truth in John 12:8, when He defended Mary's lavish display of love by pouring expensive perfume on His feet. He told those who questioned her actions that there would always be time to address the needs of the poor... and that His time was soon running out.
So, today's five understandable words are those words used when God addresses our heart attitude. It's always about one's heart with God... our actions flow from the heart. Have you allowed the Great Physician to give you a heart checkup lately? Have you had a heart to heart talk with Him today?
Give and to you will be given... (Luke 6:38)