Deuteronomy 15:1-11 – But God, They Are All Just Trying to Work the System…

Posted: February 7, 2017 in Uncategorized
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Deuteronomy 15:1-11

Release for Debtors

Yesterday, we talked about a story of a girl who cried a river and changed the whole world. We borrowed the chorus from a song by a group called Nine Days as a lead-in to our story. It was a fictionalized story with real examples that we see every day. It was a story about a single mom who had two kids that made some poor choices as a teenager and was now deeply awash in a lifestyle where it was difficult for her to rise above her financial situation. She is the type of person who gets locked into poverty by some poor choices of their own, the choices that others sometimes force upon us, and sometimes by the combination of life choices and the expectations of the world around us. There are those around us who live on the edge of disaster on a daily basis.

 

Many of us look upon those who are poor as deserving of their poverty and/or that they simply want the government handouts that are doled out to them. Sometimes, that may well be true. There are certainly those out there that “are just working the system” to get what they can get without having to work for it. They actually feel that the world has made them this way (not their own choices) and they deserve to live off the government and the guilted generosity of others. Probably the majority of people that come seeking help at our church each day the church office is open are the career charity seekers that bounce from church to church and from agency to agency trying to get what they need. The story is always urgent and they typically always want cash. These are the career charity seekers. However, there are those who are genuinely in need. Being able to tell the difference is often difficult because the natural inclination becomes jaded after a while and you automatically think that a person is just “working the system.”

 

Then, there are those who genuinely need help that want to be above the poverty line but circumstances are keeping them there. There is a girl that my wife knows that has made some poor choices in life for sure – the biggest of which are two choices to sleep with men that she was not married to and that resulted in pregnancies. She has an oldest son who is ten who lives with her mom’s choices every day. A gentle little soul is he and he has bounced around from crisis to crisis with his mom. The second pregnancy resulted in another sweet little boy but this boy was born with down syndrome. This mom loves her children immensely but the needs of her youngest child keep her from holding a steady job of any kind. He requires constant attention. Doctors appointments galore. Development challenges are daily. Yes, she made poor choices and it seems that those poor choices are going to haunt her for a long, long time. This single mom knows now that she is living with her poor choices. She knows her poor choices have caused her to live permanently on the edge of one financial crisis to the next. However, she is truly one of those people that are not able to work. My wife invests much time and tenderness with this woman and just loves her. My worry with any investments that we make in her financially are just band-aids. My worry is how can we get her to a place of independence. My worry is that such a day will never come. How can you continue to help someone when there is no way to improve their situation. You want to think that your help will result in making permanent life changes in someone’s else life. But what if there is no way to change things. Having a child with down syndrome is a lifetime commitment that strains even the best of marriages not to mention what is doing to this single mom. But when you watch this mom love her youngest child, it is a reminder that love never questions. Love just loves. This single mom is in love with her child and will do anything she can for him. She doesn’t care that never gets a moment of peace and that the demands are so demanding. She just loves her child. I know that she wants more out of life than she is getting. It is not that she wants to live in poverty and live from financial crisis to financial crisis. She wants to be free. She wants to climb out of the poverty hole. But she will probably remain there for the rest of her existence. So, do we not help her because she will never get out of the hole.

 

Then, there are those whom you help that are around us (sometimes even those that related to you) that never seem to get it. They always have reasons for their crises. They always have justifications. They seem to want to live out of an entitlement mentality. Maybe they grew up spoiled and think that the world is supposed to take care of them. They never seem to get the concept of that their own hard work will result in the improvement of their situation. They have amazing capabilities and they have nothing other than their own fears and rationalizations that hold them back. They, too, live from crisis to crisis and often only seek you out when there is a financial crisis that they need to avert. You want them to see that there is nothing that a little hard work and dedication and working at a job for more than a year can’t cure for them. You pray that someday they will get it. They often, upon receiving your help, say that they do get it and will do better in the future. But year after year you see no change of the crisis to crisis mentality and just a sense that they do not see past the next weekend. Do you have someone in your life like that? They live crisis to crisis. Maybe, they are the result of your unwillingness to let them show them tough love. Maybe they need to crash and hit rock bottom. Is this the story of someone close to you? What do you do? Do you stop helping? Do you cut them off and refuse to help in the slightest? Do they blame you when you don’t help them?

 

These are the tough choices of generosity. Do you help once. Do you help twice. Do you quit helping? Do want to see results as a condition of your help? We are called to be generous but we are also called to be wise. These were the things that I thought of today when I read about the forgiveness of debts that God called the Israelites to with the cycle of forgiving debts every 7 years in Deuteronomy 15:1-11:

 

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.

 

In this passage, God told the Israelites to help the poor among them when they began to live in and possess the Promised Land. This command was an important part of possessing the land. Many people think that the poor are responsible for their lot in life. And if they just got off their rear ends and worked that it would change their story. In some cases that may well be true. But there are those among us that are going to always be poor because of personal limitations or by limitations of someone in their family that they must care for. Does the assumption about those who are working the system excuse us from helping anyone who is poor? This kind of reasoning helps us make our heart hard toward anyone in need. We are not to invent reasons for not helping the poor. We are to not ignore the issue altogether. We are to engage those who are poor and understand their story. We are called to be a generous people. Each one of us with the right sequence of circumstances and right length of those circumstances are only a couple of paychecks and a savings account away from losing everything we have. Everything that you and I have is simply a blessing from God and it could all be taken away in an instant with an extended period of unemployment, an illness of ourselves or of a loved one that saps the family’s finances, a major life event that sends you reeling into poverty because you can’t handle life for a while. We are all just a step away from being on the street.

 

No one is immune to poverty. We should not pride ourselves in what we have accumulated. We could lose it all in very short order. Therefore, we should be generous to the world around us. We do not judge others for their poverty. We simply help. Sure, we ask God for discernment when we are dealing with habitually lazy people but we do not write off all people as lazy. We do not ignore the poor. We get to know them. We get to know their story. We help. We love. We give. We help. We love. We give. We do this because God so loved us that He was exceedingly generous to a fault with us through Jesus Christ. God is a generous God. We are to be a generous people.

 

Amen and Amen.

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