Sunday, February 01, 2009

Giving to the Poor: (Part 1) Dt 15:1-3

"At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the Lord's remission has been proclaimed. From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother." (Deuteronomy 15:1-3)
At first I thought this scripture related exclusively to loans and debts, but upon further examination, I realized that these scriptures speak most directly to acts of charity and benevolence. In these scriptures, the Lord goes on to say, "For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'" (Deuteronomy 15:11) From these scriptures, there are several things we can learn about the heart attitude God desires when we give to the poor. Here are but a few.

Give expecting nothing in return
The primary context of this scripture is lending to those in need. God instituted for the nation of Israel a year of release. Every seventh year you were to release your claim on anything you had lent to your brother; it was to be theirs and you were no longer to seek to extract it from them. What you gave in generosity, became theirs to do with as they pleased.

When we give to the poor, we need to do so with a heart attitude of expecting nothing in return. God warns His people about having an evil heart that wants to hold onto everything they have, even if others have a desperate need for sustenance. "Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, 'The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,' and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin in you." (Deuteronomy 15:9) Jesus also echoed these same sentiments when He said, "If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend , expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." (Luke 6:34-35) When we give, we should do so expecting nothing in return.

Give generously
Our giving should not be in proportion to the other person's ability to repay us, but rather in proportion to their need. "If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks." (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

Generosity is part of the nature of God. When God pours out His love and kindness on us, He does not do so sparingly but extravagantly. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us." (Ephesians 1:7-8) The Greek word used here for "lavish" means to cause to superabound or to give in excess. When we give generously we express the nature of God and open God's abundant blessing over our own lives. "Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." (2 Corinthians 9:6)

Give cheerfully
"You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings." (Deuteronomy 15:10) The key to giving cheerfully is understanding where our treasure is. If our treasure is in our possessions, then our heart will be grieved when we give it away. In our giving we will experience a sense of loss because we have relinquished some of our treasure. However, if our treasure is in the Lord, then we will never experience a loss. Even if we give away all our worldly possessions, we will in no way be impoverished. We may give away some of our possessions, but our treasure will still remain. "Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians 9:7) God loves a cheerful giver!

More to come... David Robison

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