Caring for the Poor
Open Your Bible
Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Deuteronomy 15:1-23, Deuteronomy 16:1-17, Luke 4:14-21
BY Seana Scott
Mom lived with her three younger siblings in a shanty in the 1950s. Their dad left. The cupboards lay bare while Grandma lay ill with a serious sickness. Mom fended for her family by harvesting grass from the overgrown yard to make soup. The kids rarely bathed (no plumbing), and she curled her fingers into the palms of her hands to hide the layered dirt. When the school bus stopped at Tibbetts Wick Road, she walked the aisle, down the metal stairs, and out the accordion glass doors, wishing she lived anywhere else.
The next-door neighbor took notice of the hungry children. She invited Mom to clean her small home in exchange for vegetables from her garden and chocolate chip cookies freshly made from her oven. Her generosity filled starving stomachs.
This, I think, is the heart of the teaching in Deuteronomy 15. My mom’s neighbor opened her hand willingly to the poor in her land (Deuteronomy 15:11). She offered the yield of her plot—as small as it was—and allowed my mom to glean from the first of her produce. Granted, Mom “worked” for the carrots and cookies, but the amount of food far exceeded the amount of her work.
I hope I share as easily, but in all honesty, it can feel uncomfortable extending our hands openly. Sometimes I wonder, Will we have enough? Shouldn’t we save for the future? How much should we give anyway?
The beauty about God’s instructions to the Israelites in Deuteronomy is He leaves the questioning out. They know what to do—God spelled it out in the gift of the Law. He offered the Israelites specific measurements, seasons, and times to offer openly to the poor. He even declared that if the Israelites obeyed Him, God would bless the work of their hands (Deuteronomy 15:4-6, Deuteronomy 15:10, Deuteronomy 15:18). If they trusted and obeyed God, a blessing in and of itself, God would further reward them.
I wish we knew with such specific clarity in the New Testament about how exactly to extend our hands to the poor—with the guarantee of God’s blessings in return. But what we do have is an invitation to be a part of Jesus’s work on earth. He is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 61 to “preach good news to the poor…to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19). We may not have the same specific times and measurements, but we do have the heart of these laws—to open our hand willingly—and the heart of our Savior to bring the good news to the poor.
Are we willing, or are we not willing? Are we hoarding, or are we extending? Generosity demonstrates our gratitude for God’s current provision and our trust for His future blessing. Even if our plot is small with just a few carrots and strawberries to share, it just might mean the world to the one who receives our care—like it did for my mom.