Friday, June 20, 2008

Deuteronomy 15: Economics of Generosity

Micah Challenge Prayer Friday 20 June 2008

The Poverty and Justice Bible is the first ever to highlight more than 2,000 passages that speak of God’s attitude to poverty and injustice. Challenging the notion that the Bible is a dusty, outdated rulebook, it shows that, on the biggest issues of our day, God got there first.

John Douglas, Executive Assistant of Micah Challenge UK, explores striking verses that impact on society.

Deuteronomy 15.1–18 At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts...

God’s justice is not just about what is right and fair but is also about overwhelming generosity. I had never understood this before. And thanks to a sermon I once heard based on this passage, The Economics of Generosity, it became so alive to me in a whole new way.

Verses 1 to 3 deal with the release of debt while verses 12 to 18 are concerned with the release of slaves. Both of these are laws based on two ancient economic laws in Exodus reissued in Deuteronomy with added instruction for generosity and compassion. These laws are designed to protect the impoverished and marginalized on the lower rungs of society.

What strikes me first of all is the fact that God has gone to the lengths and detail of setting out an economic system that is fair and just with the goal of the economic balance he wants to see in society. God has not only considered the plight of the poor but also the responsibility of having plenty, giving clear instruction on how to honor him.

In Deuteronomy 15.1–18 God presents both his ideal, ‘No one in Israel should ever be poor’ (4) and the fallen human reality that, ‘There will always be some Israelites who are poor and needy.’ (11) But that does not leave us without excuse because generosity functions as a bridge between this ideal and our reality while God’s laws function as a break from the relentless economic forces at work within society. God tells us that we are not meant to be ‘mean and selfish’ with our money; we are called to ‘be kind’ and ‘be happy to give to the poor what they need’. Slaves, when they were released, were not to be sent off with mere well wishes but an incredibly generous redundancy package of ‘sheep and goats and a good supply of grain and wine.’ God instills generosity in these laws so that his people will reflect to the world the generosity they have been shown by him.

At one point in the sermon, the preacher stated, ‘If there was a far great commitment, let alone from the G8 and all those other forces, if there was even commitment among the world Church to commit itself to some kind of fairness and justice and generosity, what a difference that would make and what a prophetic sign that would be.’

So as God’s desire for justice and his concern for the poor are plain for us to see, will we commit to fairness, justice and generosity as his people? Can we be the generation that will make that difference and be a prophetic sign to the world?

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