Remember the old saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same"? Some people today are concerned about the overwhelming numbers of people who are considered "below the poverty line" and need assistance. Some people grumble about the programs in place to help them. I share the concerns of those who feel that many have a sense of entitlement, and do not feel the need to work to provide for themselves and their families.
But let's look at the Biblical view on all of this, shall we? You see, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The poor have always been "with us" and there is a lot to glean from the Bible.
In the ancient world, to be poor was truly calamitous. Let's say that you were recently widowed -- you'd have what your husband had worked for and you had helped him to pull together, right?
You would have nothing --- a widow did not inherit from her husband.
How about if your mom and dad passed away, leaving you orphaned. You'd inherit from them, right?
Wrong. You have nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.
That is why God's law provided for the poor. Our Father has always tenderly loved those who truly have no way to provide for themselves. Written into His law were provisions to help:
"Waste not" --- the corners of fields and the grapes dropped by workers were specifically left behind for the poor to gather and use. They could also eat from land that lay idle in the Sabbath years.Social helps:
"Protection from loan sharks" --- if someone owed you money, you could not take their garments, which could keep them warm, and you could not take their tools, because then they could not make a living and pay you back.
"Pay him when he works" --- the poor, especially, were to be paid when they finished a job, because they needed it so desperately.
"Celebrate!" --- every 50 years, there was a year of jubilee, and debts were canceled, lands were restored, and people were freed from indentured service.
"He's kin to me" --- kinsman redeemers could help to repurchase their relatives' land, or rescue widows from their plight, as in the case of Naomi, Ruth, and their kinsman, Boaz.
"Justice is blind" --- over and over in the Old Testament, God declared that being just to the poor and defending the cause of the needy were dear to His heart. In fact, in Jeremiah 22:16, He said that to do these is the essence of knowing Him.Community worship helps:
"He was my brother" --- Levirate marriage is a term that means widows could marry their husband's brothers in the hope of securing a male heir; someone to care for them in their old age.
"The right to rest" --- servants and slaves (and even animals) were to participate in the Sabbath rest commanded by the Lord.These concepts and others that I haven't touched on, demonstrate God's love and deep concern for the plight of the poor. Ignoring or taking advantage of them would bring His wrath and possibly His judgement. Caring for them was a huge sign of obedience to His law.
"A sliding scale" --- poor people were allowed to purchase less costly sacrifices that they could afford, and still participate in temple worship.
"That tenth" --- one of the tithes was specifically for the yearly feast given to the fatherless, widows and other poor people.
Tomorrow, let's look at New Testament attitudes, and what our own should be . . .