Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 14-16
Today’s Reflection: Deuteronomy 15:4-5
4) But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5) if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.
Deuteronomy chapter 15 gives the children of Israel a number of instructions regarding how they handle their property and wealth once they enter the Promised Land. With these instructions God also gives a promise: there will be no poor among you.
This is a promise that must hold a great deal of interest to us today. We live in a world where one third of the population lives in extreme poverty; where there is severe poverty in even the wealthiest nations; where even the middle class seems to be under attack by rising costs and taxes while the wealthy seem to get richer and richer. We live in an individualistic consumer society under an economic system driven by ‘mutual self-interest.’ The promise of the end of poverty would radically and positively change our world.
But was this promise even fulfilled in ancient Israel? In the time of Jesus, there were many poor people within Israel. In fact Jesus Himself said, “For you always have the poor with you” (Matthew 26:11). The promise God had made to the children of Israel was conditional: there will be no poor among you IF you do all that I have commanded.
And what was it that God was commanding Israel to do? Forgive outstanding debts every seven years (vs. 1-2); provide loans to those who had lost their wealth (vs. 7-8); and every seven years free those so indebted they had to become slaves to their creditors—even give them some parting gifts to help them stay out of debt (vs. 12-14).
God was commanding Israel to behave like a community, not like a bunch of selfish individuals. Their inability to do this was the reason God’s promise did not come to pass. Instead of helping those in unfortunate circumstances, the powerful and wealthy in Israel exploited them.
Isaiah 10:1-2 – 1) Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, 2) to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!
But in the book of Acts the body of Christ obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit showed that living in community and claiming God’s promise to eliminate poverty was possible.
Acts 2:44-45 – 44) And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45) And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Do we have the courage and desire to do likewise?