Very often when we think of God’s heart for the poor we tend to feel guilty about what we possess the perspective that the Lord gives us in chapters 14 and 15 of Deuteronomy is very different from that. We are told that we can rejoice in what God has given us but at the same time we must look out for others. Obviously, this does not include any form of exploitation in gaining our own income. God, in fact, does not want there to be any poor but he desires equality however he realises that fallen humans will make unwise,mistaken and foolish decisions that can lead to poverty. He also cares fro the widow and the orphan who are poor through no fault of their own. The New Testament Church cared for the truly needy and the New Testament is quite explicit that we should continue to provide for the poor. The Bible always protests against injustice and stands for righteousness, truth and justice.
Firstly, We need to look at how God commands us to rejoice in all the good things he has given to us.
22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and olive oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always. 24 But if that place is too distant and you have been blessed by the LORD your God and cannot carry your tithe (because the place where the LORD will choose to put his Name is so far away), 25 then exchange your tithe for silver, and take the silver with you and go to the place the LORD your God will choose. 26 Use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish. Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice. 27 And do not neglect the Levites living in your towns, for they have no allotment or inheritance of their own.
The New International Version. (2011). (Dt 14:22–27). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
It is important to notice here that this tithe is for rejoicing before the Lord with good food and drink. We must notice that although there is the command to consume these things, it is before the Lord acknowledging his Lordship over our lives. this is having a party in the presence of the Lord. When we look at this way it is quite radical and certainly gives the lie to the idea that God is a spoilsport. God intends us to enjoy worshipping him. But this is only one aspect of his care for people as chapter 15 demonstrates. In chapter 15 We find that God is concerned about the economic welfare of his people. He is A God who has instituted economic justice for his people. The economic provisions of the Mosaic law show that God’s best purpose is economic equality. Yet being the all wise God he knows that fallen man will have problems with their use of money and possessions and to this subject we now turn.
15 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2 This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the LORD’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3 You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. 4 However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
The New International Version. (2011). (Dt 15:1–12). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Here the Lord shows the Israelites that they should have the same gracious spirit as he does. The Lord wants people to be cheerful givers when it comes to helping the poor. Notice he says they are not to be tightfisted or hardhearted towards those in need. Fallen man makes foolish decisions, can have things go wrong or he can be exploited by others, in all of these situations they are to provide help. This provision of the Lord for cancelling debt runs contrary to the exploitation of those in debt we see in contemporary society. Just imagine if Wonga or one of those other exploitative companies were to start forgiving debts instead of charging outrageous interest rates how that would transform the lives of so many people. If this would happen many people would be freed from unjust loan repayments where the interest amounts to more than the original loan. Such things are highly offensive to a God who is just and loving.
When people got into debt in Ancient Israel, they became slaves but this is not in the modern sense of the term, they had to be treated with dignity and it was for a limited time period after which they were set free with abundant provision for starting their debt free life.
12 If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. 13 And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. 14 Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the LORD your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.
16 But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, 17 then take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your female servant.
18 Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because their service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.
The New International Version. (2011). (Dt 15:12–19). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
The Lord here is very clear about the generosity of heart that is required of those setting their Hebrew slaves free, this runs contrary to the normal inclination and action of the fallen human being, this relationship is to demonstrate something of the Character of Israel’s God who is a God of holy love and he expects his people to demonstrate that love to one another. This type of action can only come from the hearts of those who know what it is to rejoice before the Lord and therefore we come full circle to our starting point. This whole discourse calls us to demonstrate something of the wonder of God’s grace to a broken and needy world, will we heed the call of God to rejoice in him and be gracious to others?