Deuteronomy 15:7 – 11
Be open-handed not hard-hearted
I love how this passage opens: If anyone is poor among your people in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need (vv 7-8).
To be clear, Deuteronomy 15 is all about fair lending and how debt should never be a means to enslave people. The understanding is that loaning someone who is in need could very well lead to a cyclical indebted relationship that would be oppressive and stifling to human dignity. So the command is that creditors should cancel the debts that are owed them every seven years and they should do so with a generous heart. No grumbling about it or finding a loophole that will allow one to gloss over canceling the debt. It’s very clear: Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to (v 10).
There’s a spirit to this command that I don’t want us to miss, of which lending is part of a larger whole. There will always be people who are economically vulnerable and God wants us to be generous and open-handed towards them. When (not if) we give, we should do so with a grateful heart.
The spirit of this verse also extends to a systemic understanding of what it means to give. This cannot be understood only in terms of what one individual does for another. It’s important that we read this verse in the context of how our government is or is not meeting its obligation to those who are economically vulnerable. So in the state of Missouri, we have over 800,000 people who are uninsured, because the income threshold for a family with two children is $3,504. If we expand Medicaid, the new threshold for a family with two children is approximately $26,000 and 260,000 more people will be covered. That’s 260,000 more working poor Missourians who have access to medical care.
From a faith perspective, I don’t think that we’ve covered nearly enough Missourians, but that’s a conversation for another time. The point is, can we be open-hearted enough with our budgetary process and our discussion about those who are poor to give health insurance generously to them? Isn’t that part of the promise of living in a land that God generously gave to us – a land flowing with doctors, hospitals and resources to take care of our people?
Verse 11 gets quoted in a truncated fashion, but I want to remind us of the entire verse: There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land. In this season of praying, fasting and acting, I want us as people of faith to remember that God generously gives to us, so we are to give with open hands and open hearts to others. I will be praying for and calling upon our elected leaders in the state of Missouri that they live into this promise of open-handedness and open-heartedness.