May 4, 2017

Deuteronomy 15:4, 11 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed towards your brothers and towards the poor and needy in your land.

At first glance this seems very contradictory. The thing is, verse 4 is followed by verse 5, which says that the blessings are dependent on obedience. Taken that way, verse 11 then becomes a recognition that there will always be those who suffer the consequences of disobedience. Where that gets tricky, however, is that we suffer from the disobedience of others, as well as our own. Sometimes people are in dire straits through no fault of their own. We are not to be holier-than-thou and decline to help people because “they had it coming to them.”At the same time, genuine love gives a hand up rather than a handout. Work requirements for able-bodied people to receive welfare are far more loving than teaching dependence. Even Paul had to be strict on this point. “For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) That is not aimed at those who cannot work, but at those who choose not to when they are able. Entitlement reform is a huge issue in America right now. They would certainly do well to go with the Biblical pattern!

I’ve encountered all sorts of people needing and/or asking for help of all sorts. It is far easier to be generous toward someone if they haven’t made asking for help a lifestyle! Often divine wisdom is called for to know the difference between a hand up and a handout. One particular homeless man who has come here makes me really want to help him. He doesn’t ask for money, but rather for work to do. The first time he came I did pay him for his work (as well as feed him) but the second time he came he only wanted food, saying that he didn’t make good use of money, and his work was heartfelt and diligent. I would be very interested in helping him get a job, but the places that hire people who don’t have a regular address are often involved in crime, and he’s been stung by that before. I can only pray for him, and ask for God’s wisdom any time he shows up. There are of course many other people around me with needs of all sorts. I am to hold myself ready and available for however God wants to use me to meet those needs, but not run around doing things on my own. It is indeed “more blessed to give than to receive,” (Acts 20:35) but I am not to give without wisdom, because that can do real harm in the long run.

Father, I am bombarded with pleas for money from a wide variety of organizations. I tend to turn them all off! Help me understand the purpose for which you have given me everything I have, so that I may make the use of it that You intend, blessing others and above all giving You glory. Thank You. Praise God!


About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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