Thursday, July 26, 2012

Emptying the Clouds

Have you ever been at a stop light where there's a man or woman holding a sign begging for money?  And you do everything you can to pretend like they aren't there, to avoid eye contact at all cost?  Guilty as charged.  I've done it...a lot.  When we lived in Oklahoma City, there were a couple of places we drove through repeatedly that you could count on someone being there.  Not once did I do a thing about it.  After all, in this day and age, how do I know if they're actually homeless or in trouble?  And what if they use my money for alcohol or drugs?  But maybe that doesn't matter...

Deuteronomy 15:7 - If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in you land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother.

I want to define a few things here before I get to the heart of the matter:

  • To "close your hand" could be translated as being "tightfisted" and quite a few versions refer to it in that way (Parallel Bible).
  • "Poor" in the Hebrew can mean quite a few different things, the chief meaning in this verse is "in want, needy, chiefly poor, needy person" (Strong's H34).  However, it can also be defined as someone "subject to oppression and abuse" or someone "needing help, deliverance from trouble" (Strong's H34).  
  • While it would be easy to dismiss this verse because I literally don't have a poor brother, it isn't that simple.  "Brother" also can be defined in a variety of ways, from the literal blood relationship to simply resembling someone to having a relationship with someone.  In some verses, it is simply translated as "countrymen" (Deut. 17:20).  You see, "brother,"  much like "neighbor," covers a vast array of people (Strong's H251).
So this verse simply put: If you know of someone in need (whether that be monetarily or otherwise) do not be hardhearted or tightfisted.

As soon as I read this verse, I was convicted.  Sitting at those stop lights, hardening my heart is exactly what I did!  Because there is ALWAYS a chance that that person really needs help...but I shut those thoughts out of my mind, hardened my heart, and tightened my fist - there was no way they were getting my was too risky!

But it is here in this verse that "we are...commanded to lend or give according to our ability and the necessity of the case" (Henry).  Yeah, I might not have much money to spare thanks to rent and student loans and gas money...but compared to some, I have a lot.  I can always give something...  If I'm not willing to give than my heart is already hardened.  As Henry brilliantly puts it, "If the hand be shut, it is a sign the heart be hardened; for, if the clouds were full of rain they would empty themselves."

Today I challenge us (yes, I'm definitely including myself here) to not just walk by.  The next time you see someone in need, whether that is someone begging on the side of the road or someone crying in a hallway, stop and help.  No, we can't know what is going to happen to the $5 we give that person, but that isn't for us to worry about.  You see, "When we have an occassion of charitable lending, if we cannot trust the borrower, we must trust God, and lend..." (Henry).  God told us to give, He will take care of the rest.

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