It happens to us all. Maybe he’s standing on the street corner with a cardboard sign. Maybe it’s a friend or a co-worker. Maybe it’s a grown son or daughter. They need a loan. Or another loan. Or just a little help. Maybe it doesn’t seem right, but there’s the guilt. You wonder … what is the right thing to do?
Deuteronomy 15 & Deuteronomy 16
When to Help and When to Get Out of the Way
Deuteronomy 15 & Deuteronomy 16:
Giving, Lending, Welfare & the Church
In today’s reading we see a great picture of God’s attitude toward giving and caring for one another. God commanded the nation of Israel “open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need (v. 15.8). Then every seven years there was to be a release of debts and a release of servants from their bondage.
One definition of biblical love is “a sacrificial action for the benefit of another and the glory of God without expecting anything in return.” That’s the kind of love we’re to have for one another—not a love based on feelings, but a love that is active and rooted in our love for God.
Does that Mean Believers Should Always Lend or Give to Anyone Who Asks?
I believe one of the greatest tragedies of our nation’s system of welfare and all the other programs we offer is that these things are not in the hands of the church. That’s partly because the church has not done what she should have. By the church, I mean us—you and me. Imagine what churches could do if everyone tithed and gave to the work of God! Instead, only a fraction of God’s people give faithfully.
God intended for us to care for one another in the context of the church family. That requires knowing one another, knowing the issues, knowing the struggles, knowing the circumstances, knowing what is really needed, knowing when to help and when NOT to help.
Because programs are not administered by people who know the one seeking help, our system has left room for fraud and abuse and often does more harm than good.
When to Help and When to Get Out of the Way
There are times when we can get in the way of what God is doing by constantly bailing others out of their difficulties. This is especially true with our own children!
We have all seen adult children who repeatedly make unwise decisions, squander their own and, sometimes, their parents resources, and make excuses for why they can’t work steadily. Their heart-broken and confused parents help them over and over much to the dismay of other family members and the detriment of the one being helped.
The same Bible that teaches we should give generously says, “… Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (2 Thess. 3.10 NLT). We need to be discerning when others come to us for help. We should pray and seek God’s wisdom.
Has this person worked hard to solve the issue at hand? Has he or she shown responsibility in the past, but is faced with an unforeseen difficulty? Or has he or she shown a pattern of poor decisions and irresponsible behavior? Are we getting in the way of God’s consequences?
A whip for the horse,
A bridle for the donkey,
And a rod for the fool’s back (Prov. 26.3).
There is desirable treasure,
And oil in the dwelling of the wise,
But a foolish man squanders it (Prov. 21.20).
But notice that passage said those who are unwilling to work wouldn’t get to eat. It didn’t say unable. We should help those who are truly unable to work and we should do what we can to support widows, orphans, and the elderly when they don’t have family to care for them.
In Biblical times, farmers were to leave a remnant of their crop for the poor to gather freely and God has special care and concern for widows and orphans.
The bottom line is Scripture must be studied and understood in light of other Scripture. There is a time to extend mercy and a time to gently rebuke and counsel (Gal. 6.1-2). There is a time to help and a time to get out of the way.
TODAY’S OTHER READINGS:
Verses 30-31, “The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.”
If we want our words to be filled with wisdom, we must continually hide His Word in our hearts. That means we need to read it, study it, meditate on it, and memorize it!
Verse 19, “The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
God will expose a lying tongue. Someone said, “What we cover, God uncovers, but what we confess, God covers.”
John the Faithful Messenger
Here we see John the Baptist preaching, calling the people to repentance and baptizing them. John’s ministry was to help prepare the hearts of the people for the message of salvation and for their Messiah.
Changed Hearts Equal Changed Lives
The repentance to which John called the people was more than just sorrow over their sins but to a changed life. He told the people to be generous. He told the tax collectors to stop overcharging for their own gain and soldiers to do their jobs without taking advantage of their power (vv. 3.10-14).
Likewise, when we come to faith in Christ, there must be repentance (Lk. 5.32). Repentance involves recognition of the fact that we are sinners in need of a Savior and that we can never be good enough to save ourselves. But it also involves a change of mind leading to a change of behavior. John said, “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (v. 8) and Jesus said, “every tree is known by its own fruit” (Lk. 6.44).
A genuine salvation experience will lead to a change in thinking and behavior. We will still feel the pull of sin, but the Holy Spirit who comes to live in us (1 Cor. 6.19) enables us to choose to do what is pleasing to God. The pull is still there, but it no longer has power over us.
That’s good news and bad. It means by relying on God and His strength we can change and grow and choose righteous living. It also means if we do sin, we are choosing to do so (1 Cor. 10.13).
As believers we will sin. But 1 John 1.7-9 reminds us …
7 … if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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