There’s a cold snap going on right now. Cold. The soil in the garden is frozen, the water dripping off my car turned to icicles. I can’t help but think about the people scattered around my neighborhood and the streets nearby that will sleep outside in this weather. Often my heart feels burdened and I wonder what I can do, but other times, it’s followed by thoughts that disclaim their situation. There are shelters nearby, they just don’t want to follow the rules to stay there. A lot of those people are living house-less by choice. Homeless ministry has stayed heavy on my heart over the years, because I hate feeling unsafe and having warm feet is really important to me. Also, because Jesus cares about it a lot and I want to be compassionate about the same things as him. I noted these verses today:
“Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.” 15:10-11
I can’t think of anywhere in the Bible where there are asterisks added to the commands of generosity. Maybe there are a few proverbs out there suggesting discernment, but other than that we are asked simply to give. Give of our time, our resources, our space, our empathy and our attention. Usually the critical voices in my head talking me out of caring for the needy are my selfish ambitions to hold on to those things.
My commentary on these verses notes that God is suggesting giving away riches brings more blessing than the riches themselves. Greedy Me disagrees with that, and I wonder how having less money, food and time to myself could possibly be better. But then I think about my dining room table full of friends and neighbors, laughing and sharing big plates of hot food together. I remember how stopping to be present with someone when I really just wanted to hide my face in my phone enriched my day. God is not a manipulative leader, bribing us with a reward to behave ourselves. He’s sharing his design for people-care with us: we are created for togetherness, unity and relationship.
There will always be some in the land who are poor. Ugh, my heart sinks at this. The differences in social class will always exist, and God is specifically instructing our role in it as his people: “be generous and lend them whatever they need”. (15:8) Are there boundaries in this type of work? Absolutely. But no where in this chapter does it mention self-preservation or sifting through everyone’s personal background to decipher whether someone is poor at their own hand or not. It’s just a command to love like Christ loves us: unconditionally.
Are there areas in your life you can be more generous? What’s your hesitation? I’m greedy and like control over my possessions and time. There I said it. Today I’m praying that God would shape my heart to be more like his in this area.