Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Ancient food bank

"Gleaning" by Arthur Hughes
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Leviticus 21-23; Psalm 37

TO CHEW ON: "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 23:22

God makes no secret of the fact He is for the poor, pities the poor, and wants those that identify with Him to defend and help the poor. In today's reading we have one way people could do that: by harvesting carelessly, making sure there was something left for gleaners. Then, one year in every seven, they were to let fields lie fallow, leaving the entire volunteer crop for the poor (Exodus 23:11).

Here are a few other pro-poor policies and attitudes found in the Bible:
  • A relative should be allowed to redeem a poor person's possession (Leviticus 25:25).
  • The rich were not to turn away as in ignore or grow calloused toward the poor person's plight (Deuteronomy 15:7).
  • The person holding the poor person's pledge (or down-payment) was not to keep it overnight (Deuteronomy 24:12). (Perhaps because the pledge would be something the person needed for their very health or well-being, like their cloak for warmth).

The results and rewards of helping the poor also show God's sympathetic heart. toward them. The person helping the poor:

  1. is called "blessed" (Psalm 41:1) and "happy" (Proverbs 14:21).
  2. is loaning to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17).
  3. will get the wealth of those who take advantage of the poor (Proverbs 28:7).
  4. won't lack (Proverbs 28:27).
  5. will find their generosity helps them to follow Jesus in discipleship that readily abandons all to Him (Matthew 19:21).

God's attitude toward the poor prompts us to take a long hard look at our own attitudes. Do we avoid going to places where the poor will approach us? Do we "hide our eyes" from the panhandler, the raggy man seated outside Safeway beside his coin pot, the dusty woman pushing her grocery cart of blankets and bottles (Proverbs 28:27)?

It might be a good idea to settle on a strategy of sharing with the poor. Some ways that come to mind:
  • Give regularly to organizations that help the poor and homeless.
  • I read of someone who, when approached by a beggar, empties his pockets, giving him/her all the cash he is carrying at the time.
  • I heard of someone else who designates a monthly sum of money to give away to the poor. He gives it as the needs/requests come.

How do you help the poor?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your tender heart toward the poor. Help me to have Your attitude. Amen.


MORE: The flip side.

The flip side of being a helper of the poor is being a helpee, that is, the poor person needing help. Most of the poor are not lazy deadbeats at all, but people who for one reason or another are needy.

Todd Burpo, author of Heaven is for Real found himself in that position when his four-year-old son became deathly ill. Here are his words describing what it felt like to need help:

"... pastors and their families are usually most comfortable in the role of 'helper,' not 'helpee.' Sonja and I had always been the ones who visited the sick, brought the meals, cared for others' kids in times of need. We were adamantly self-reliant—maybe in retrospect, to the point of being prideful. But that gruelling stint in the hospital snapped our pride like a dry twig and taught us how to be humble enough to accept help from other people, physically, emotionally, and financially" - Todd Burpo, Heaven is for Real, p. 153.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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