If Your Brother Becomes Poor
April 10, 2020
Reading: Leviticus 25:35-55
In giving the Law of Moses, God is forming in his people the character he wants. This section details the way God expects Israel to deal with poverty among them. “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit”(Lev 25:35-37). God wants his people to take care of their poor brothers. There is a mentality that sees others’ misfortune as an opportunity for our own gain. In this view, we can charge the poor man interest, which enriches us and further impoverishes him. God forbids this as unworthy of the relationship they should have as fellow Israelites.
Jehovah also forbids his people from keeping their fellow Hebrews as slaves. “He shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers”(Lev 25:40-41). They are merely hired workers who are committed to their master for a limited time, to be released at the jubilee. The reason is important: “For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves”(Lev 25:42). Jehovah claims Israel as his slaves. Repeatedly he instructs the people not to “rule over him ruthlessly” but instead “fear your God”(Lev 25:43, 53). Poverty is not an excuse for cruelty.
In our worse moments, we would respond to others’ poverty with resentment (because it creates a burden on us) or desire for exploitation. Jehovah teaches his people to remember the bond they share—even with the poor—because they are brothers who are slaves of the same God. While not all of the rules here translate directly to Christianity, some principles remain. We love others despite their net worth. Poverty often provides opportunities to serve and show love for others. In serving others, we serve Jesus (Matt 25:31-46).
One Thing to Think About: How do I tend to view people in poverty?
One Thing to Pray For: A stronger desire to help and serve the weak