Deuteronomy 24:10-15 – How Close Are You and I To Being the “Will Work for Food” Guy on the Street Corner?

Posted: April 5, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 24:10-15

Treating the Poor & Needy with Dignity

How close are you to being on the street? Some are closer than others but we all could be there in short order. Some of us having savings that will last us a period of time. Some of us do not. All it takes is the loss of your job or an extended illness that consumes your money like it does your body.

 

According to research that was mentioned in an article that I read at the Huffington Post website, over ¾ of Americans have less than six month’s worth of savings (i.e., enough in savings to pay their bills for six months). About ¼ of Americans have no savings at all. The article also said that even though we are now about six years beyond the end of the deepest recession since the 1930’s and people began to see the necessity of savings, not much has changed in America’s savings habits since then. There has been little change in the level of savings by Americans. Look at your take home pay the next time you get paid. Say for example if you get paid twice a month like me, take that take-home pay amount and multiply it by 12 (the number of bi-monthly pay periods in 6 months). If you get paid monthly, that multiplier is 6, of course. If you get paid bi-weekly, that multiplier is 13. If you get paid weekly, that multiplier is 26. Family financial advisors recommend that you have six months worth of savings built up at all times so that you can survive a temporary job loss or survive a temporary medical condition that causes you to be unable to work. You know your bills. They keep coming relentlessly. It is almost a certainty that each one of us will suffer a job loss on at least one occasion during our working careers. The typical American worker will suffer at least two job losses during his working career. In a recent research study, the typical American worker when unemployed will be out of work for at least 10 weeks. Other research also shows that the typical American worker will most likely accept a job making less than they were making before their job loss. Think about that. It is a statistical certainty that we will lose our job at some point in our working years. On average, when we do lose our job, we will be out of work for 10 weeks in the best of economic times. In the most recent recession that average job loss period skyrocketed to 22 weeks. And, then, to top it all off, when you finally do find a job, it is also a high statistical probability that you will accept a job making less money that you were making before you became unemployed. Think about that. We can no longer be blind to the facts. Do you want that boat that you may use 20 times in a year, if that, or do you need to build up your savings. Our economy and our culture is built on credit and buying things rather than saving. But we must resist the culture here.

 

If we have another deep recession like the one from 2008-2011, you and I could easily be on the street in short order. Average unemployment duration during that recession was 22 weeks. Some people were out of work much longer than that during the Great Recession. During that time, I knew people who had been out of work for as much as a year. Can you and I survive that? Sadly, though, I pride myself for the place that I have gotten from a financial stability standpoint, I still have a ways to go when it comes to an emergency fund. Based on what I take home each pay period, I have built up savings for about 3 months worth of take home pay. Since Elena and I have purposely been on a mission for the last few years to reduce our expenses, when I look at it from an expense perspective (eliminating tithes, contributions, and other spending that would go away if unemployed), I think we could make it maybe 4.5 or 5 months without income. However, if a job loss lasted longer than that, we would be in trouble. How ‘bout you?

 

How close are you to being on the street? It is like the gorilla in the room that nobody wants to talk about. We all see the gorilla but if we ignore it maybe it will go away. Guess what? The gorilla never goes away. It’s there. It will always be there. What are you and your spouse, if married, doing to ensure that you can survive a loss of a job and reduced income after re-employment. How important is it to have that fancy vacation every year? How important is it to have that house is above the recommended percentage of your gross salary (investment counselors recommend no more than 25% of our gross income should go toward a house payment)? How important is it to have that big fine car with its big fine car payment? Savings is not sexy but essential. Savings can be sexy if you let it be. Setting savings goals and creating margin in our budgets to do so and achieving our goals for savings can be sexy! It will be very sexy to you when you lose your job. How close are you to being on the street?

 

When I read today’s passage about treatment of the poor and needy just impressed upon me how close each one of us is from being that guy on a street corner with the sign, “will work for food!” and how that compares to our view of the man that is already there. Let’s read Deuteronomy 24:10-15 together now:

 

10 When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into their house to get what is offered to you as a pledge. 11 Stay outside and let the neighbor to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you. 12 If the neighbor is poor, do not go to sleep with their pledge in your possession. 13 Return their cloak by sunset so that your neighbor may sleep in it. Then they will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the Lord your God.

 

14 Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. 15 Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the Lord against you, and you will be guilty of sin.

 

Certainly, the Bible teaches us to honor the pledges that we make and that if we are a lender we certainly have the right to enforce debt agreements. However, God calls for mercy when a person is in our debt. We should not treat those who owe us money poorly. We should not take advantage of the poor in our employment practices either. Just because a person is poor and will do anything for money, we are not to take advantage. We are give the poor and needy the dignity that they deserve as children made in the image of our Creator. If we are all made in the image of God, that means that we have the dignity of a child of a king. We should not treat the poor and needy as something less than us or less than human.

 

How many times do you and I avoid the uncomfort of homeless people? How many times do you think, “you worthless bum! Get a job!” How many times do we really treat a homeless person with dignity? How many times will we ignore them? How many times will we think poorly of them as we walk past them? How many times do you look the other way as we pass a homeless shelter? How many times do you and I drive past a food pantry and roll our eyes up in our head as we see the long line of people that look like they have been wearing the same clothes for three days?

 

This is where I get back to my opening observations. How close are you and I to being on the street? How close are you and I to being that person at the food pantry looking like we haven’t changed clothes in 3 days? How close are you and I to being the “will work for food” guy on the street corner? Every homeless person has a back story. Not all homeless people are drug addicts and dope heads. Some are people that have been out of work for a while. You try being homeless for a while. It may well drive you to drinking or drugs. Think about how close you and I are to homelessness. It’s just an extended period of unemployment away my friend. If we want to avoid living on the street. We must begin saving. We must begin living beneath our means. We need to learn to live on less so that (1) we can be generous and (2) save for a rainy day.

 

Given the fact that any of us could be on the street in short order, maybe we, too, should consider giving the poor and needy more dignity than we do. It could be us. We should have no pride. We should be willing to help the poor and needy. Jesus called us to help the poor and needy, not feel prideful and disdainful. Just think of it as it could easily be me on the side of the road. It is a very real possibility and no matter how hard you work or how much you don’t want to be on the street, it could happen to you! Would you not want to be treated with dignity. You would not have planned to be on the street?

 

Amen and Amen.

 

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