Generosity to the Poor: Open Your Hand


Deuteronomy 15:1-11

Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbor, not exacting it of a neighbor who is a member of the community, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but you must remit your claim on whatever any member of your community owes you. There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today. When the Lord your God has blessed you, as he promised you, you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”


Sometimes God’s principles seem so simple, and yet, so difficult. God’s people were to celebrate a sabbath rest. This was for the entire nation, God’s chosen people. In this year, all debts between Israelites were to be forgiven. As God’s people they were supposed to make sure that they took care of one another, and this meant that a time would come when debts were cleared. 

The attitude toward the poor was vitally important. Generosity was to flow from the heart, never thinking about holding back funds when the year of the sabbath was near! By giving liberally and ungrudgingly, there would be no poor among the people of God. Of course, there would be circumstances that would create need so therefore, a spirit of generosity was always to be a mark of the Jews. Hands open, giving what they had to help the other. In doing so, God would care for them all.


Today the family of God, or the church, takes upon her shoulders the responsibility of caring for the poor. It means that we have to ask ourselves some really serious questions. When we discover people who are in need among us, we have a responsibility to respond. Often, we may become critical of those who who are living in poorer circumstances, blaming them for a poor work ethic, or simply not trying hard enough. I think that God knew that there would always be reasons why some might have more than others, and often beyond the control of the individual.

I remember hearing Dr. Stan Toler tell the story about his family. His father, a coal miner died when Stan was just entering his teen years. He had two younger brothers at home and his mother wasn’t well. If it hadn’t been for the church, he’s not sure how they all would have survived. It was the living care of the family of God that changed the trajectory of the lives of those three boys. The church has been enriched by the lives of the Toler boys, but it took those who were willing to open their hands and give generously to make a difference.

Christians are not supposed to become wealthy at the hands of the poor. I was shocked to learn that there are businesses in which it becomes easy to make money off of the poor. Payday lending and check cashing services are predatory and take advantage of the poor and yet, I hear of believers who have found this to be a way in which to make money. How in the world does this reflect generosity toward the poor? 

Serving in ministry in Indiana, I suddenly learned the cost of being poor. Try paying utilities on a trailer home in the dead of winter! Even when some would catch a break, it seemed as if the door would slam closed in another area. When a father walks out on a family and provides no support for his wife and children, those left behind can be instantly thrown into poverty. The children become immediately disadvantaged compared to those living with two parents. Within the church family it becomes the responsibility of those who may not have had to face this kind of difficulty to come alongside and share out of a generous heart. 

Adopting a posture of open handedness reflects the character of Christ. We should give with a spirit of generosity, hoping that others would do the same for us if the tables were turned. Now, imagine adopting this posture locally, within your Jerusalem and Judaea and to the ends of the earth. We are a global Christian family and we have responsibilities to care for those around the world as well. Interconnected as the family of God, we are to be generous toward the poor. 

May God help us to have our hands open, willing to share what God has graciously provided for us so that we can help others. 


Lord, may your spirit of generous and overflowing love pour through my life so that I can touch the lives of others with the resources you have allowed me to steward. Amen. 


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