Take God at His Word
I went over to our food distribution place across the street yesterday. I wanted to get out of the building, and besides, I hadn’t been there in awhile. When I arrived at Simple House, one of the first things someone told me was that they were running out of soup, vegetables, and fruit. I talked to the volunteers there a bit, and found out that in the first hour and a half they were open, they served 32 people in 13 families. And they said that the next few days would be busier, as it was the end of the month, and money for many folks just doesn’t seem to stretch all the way through the month.
I asked what I could do, and they gave me a list and asked me to buy some of the items they needed the most. So I went shopping. I found the best deals overall at Dillons and bought about two hundred dollars worth of canned veggies, fruit, soups, and some toiletries. The cart was crammed rather full when I got to the check out lane.
Today, I went back over to the pantry, and saw that my food purchase had indeed made the shelves more filled. But there was no great glut of anything, and it was painfully obvious that other items were in short supply and would have to be replenished. I was just a little surprised that a cart completely filled with canned goods took up no more space on the shelves than it did. And besides, while I was there, people were filling sacks to give to others who were waiting in line in the hall, so things were rapidly going back out.
I don’t know what the answer is, and I don’t even know if there is an answer to hunger and poverty. I do know that Jesus said that the Jews would always have the poor among them. And I know that the Law of Moses said, “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’” I presume that we will also always have the poor, and the principle that God told Israel in Deuteronomy 15 regarding freely opening our hands to our brothers, our needy, and our poor, is good for us just as it was for them.
Please note that God in Deuteronomy talks of the brother, the needy and the poor being “your” brother, “your” needy, “your” poor. They are ours. They belong to us. I don’t think that’s a misprint, bad translation, or figurative expression. I think that’s intentional, and I think we need to take it seriously. I think that means we have an obligation to them. And I think that God is checking on us to see how we fulfill that obligation. He’s always had a soft spot for the down and out; the widow; the fatherless; the poor (Exodus 22:22, Deuteronomy 24:17-18, Proverbs 23:10 Luke 18:7, and others). You want to ignore them, disrespect them, refuse to help them, and take your chances with God? I don’t.
I don’t know how seriously you take your obligation to help the poor and the hungry. I don’t know whether you believe most of them are capable of supporting themselves if they just would, or if you think there are truly those who cannot help themselves. I do know that God made no such distinction in His commands to Israel to help them. And Jesus made no distinctions in his command to love our neighbor as ourselves, to offer a cup of cold water in His name, to clothe them, or to visit them.
We do well to take God at His word.