“Loving the Losers” – Deuteronomy 23:15-20; 24:17-22

January 21st, 2018

Dt. 23:15-20; 24:17-22

“Loving the Losers”

Aux Text: 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Call to Worship: Psalm 112

 

Service Orientation: God created mankind in His image and people have intrinsic high value.  We need to protect vulnerable people from becoming more vulnerable.  Allow your past suffering to promote your compassion.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. — Matthew 7:12

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 23:15) The implication here is that the master of the slave has been harsh, and this has motivated the slave to escape. If he comes to an Israelite home seeking “refuge” (NIV), they must give him refuge.  The person must take the risk of angering the former master by refusing to send the slave back to him.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 533)
  • (v. 23:15) Runaway slaves were common in the ancient world, as we learn both from the Bible (Gn 16:6; 1 Sm 25:10; 1 Kgs 2:39-40; Philemon) and surviving Babylonian documents (Driver and Miles 1952, 105-6). The Code of Hammurabi contains a set of laws pertaining to fugitive slaves where anyone caught aiding their flight or harboring them becomes guilty of a capital offense.  Both are counted as theft.  Those returning slaves to their owners get a reward.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 655)
  • (v. 23:15) First, the law seems to assume that the experience of slavery in Israel would not be so intolerably harsh that there would be a glut of runaways. Indeed, the slave release law allows for the possibility that a slave might be so content in his relationship with his master that he (or she) would prefer permanent slavery to freedom (15:16f.).  When reading the OT, we need to put out of our minds pictures of slavery derived from Roman galley slaves or more recent black slavery because these are quite inappropriate analogies for what a slave was in Israel.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 249)
  • (v. 23:15) Israel’s fugitive status in Egypt and in Canaan sensitized her toward such humane issues. Harboring a runaway slave was a capital offense in Babylonia (Code of Hammurabi Laws 15-20).

Treaties between Hatti and Egypt and Hatti and Amurru mandate the mutual extradition of slaves.  If the policy was not followed, the treaty was considered broken.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 496-7)

  • (v. 23:15) If the elders of a city or country {in ANE countries outside of Israel} where slaves were found misrepresented the situation and harbored a fugitive slave, their hands were cut off and a fine of six thousand shekels exacted. (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 497)
  • (v. 23:15) When the present law was promulgated Israel presumably had no treaties with other nations. During the monarchy, David gave kind treatment to the Egyptian slave of an Amalekite.  It was in the national interest to do so, therefore he promised not to return the slave to his master (1 Sm 30:11-15).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 655)
  • (v. 23:16) The treaties of that day included provisions for escaped slaves and other fugitives to be returned. In the Hammurabi Code, a man who harbored a runaway slave was to be put to death.  Perhaps this command of God helped the Israelites to remember that their alliance was with God, and they did not need to obey other treaties or form political alliances with other nations.  Possibly this law protecting fugitive slaves was meant to remind the Israelites of their former status as slaves in Egypt.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 250)
  • (v. 23:16) Deuteronomy’s law is unique in the ANE, and consistent with the book’s structural resistance to political tyranny, perhaps with an implication that it should not make treaties with other nations. The “oppression” of the refugee that is forbidden here is like the oppression of weak Israelites by the rich and powerful (all its uses, except one, Isa 49:26, relate to oppression of Israelites by Israelites; e.g. Ex 22:20; Lv 19:33; Jer 22:3; Ez 18:7).  This implies that the refugee is to be allowed not only to reside in the land, but to have freedom in it.  His status is somewhat like that of the Israelite who has served his six years in restitution for unpaid debt, and who is able to return to an independent life.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 351)
  • (v. 23:17) Temple prostitution was practiced among Baal worshipers of Canaan in their fertility rites. Israel was strictly forbidden to indulge in this demoralizing practice (v. 17).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 143)
  • (v. 23:17) Cult prostitutes, male and female, were a feature of the religion practiced by the peoples of Canaan (cf. Gn 38:21-22). The words used in v. 17 [18] are closely related to the word “holy.”  Sexual intercourse with them may have been seen as a fertility ritual, the sexual act corresponding to the deities’ sexual fertility, designed to secure plenty in the agricultural sphere.  The opposition to the practice here is in keeping with Deuteronomy’s rejection of all forms of Canaanite worship, and especially the association of sexuality with the deity, Deuteronomy’s one God having no sexual characteristics.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 351)
  • (v. 23:17) The history of Israel is full of examples of her failure to keep this command (1 Kgs 14:24; 15:12; 22:46; 2 Kgs 23:7; Hos 4:14). (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 251)
  • (v. 23:17-18) The Hebrew words for whore and sodomite here (KJV) are derived from the word “to be holy.” They refer not to ordinary prostitution, but to sacred prostitution, a common practice in the worship of pagan deities.  Though the God of Israel was emphatically not to be honored in this way, the practice was introduced into the nation under pagan influence (cf. 1 Kgs 14:24; 15:12; 2 Kgs 23:7; Amos 2:7; and the metaphorical use of the custom to describe Israel’s rebellion in Jer 3:2, 6, 8-9, 13).  Dog: From the context evidently an opprobrious name for a male sacred prostitute.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 471)
  • (v. 23:18) The payment of a vow allowed an Israelite to express his gratitude for God’s gracious provision in his life. Therefore, to use money that had been acquired by sinful means would be hypocritical.  The use here of “dog” (v. 18) may refer to the doglike manner in which “a perverted one of the sons of Israel” debased himself when he became a temple prostitute.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 251)
  • (v. 23:19) Such a law is rare in the ancient world, where lending at interest was widely practiced but still looked upon with great disfavor, being compared to bribery, theft, and other forms of avarice. Yet we have ancient texts censuring usury.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 663)
  • (v. 23:20) The ban on interest for loans does not extend to foreigners (cf. 17:15; 29:22 [21]). Unlike the “alien” who lived among the Israelites, albeit with limited rights, the “foreigner” remained an outsider with no intention of settling down in Israel.  The persons envisioned here might have been merchants who bought and sold goods for profit rather than the sheer need for survival.  If their business ventures did not succeed, they could always go home.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 548)
  • (v. 24:17) In Dt 16:19 people are told they must not pervert judgment to anyone. But to the sojourner, orphan, and widow they must be particularly vigilant in executing justice and practicing benevolence, since these are the people in society typically without an advocate.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 695)

 

Webster’s Definition of “loser”:  One that loses.  One who does poorly.  A failure.

 

God says that we are all born losers because we were created in God’s likeness and image but have fallen far short of that standard.

 

The question to be answered is . . . How should past sufferings and experiences motivate our compassion?

 

Answer:  At one time or another, we are all losers.  We need to remember how grateful we were, or would have been, if someone helped us in our time of need.  God promises His blessing if we will do unto others as we would have them do to us.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Compassion

 

Many people think that OT religion was characterized by a harsh and unbending legalism.  We will show in this study that this characterization is far from the truth.  The rules of Deuteronomy were intended to give joy and stability to Israel, among other things–to make it a pleasant place in which to live.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 533)

 

How should this text direct our compassion?:

I-  Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (Dt 23:15-16, 19; 24:17, 19-21; see also: Lev 19:9-10, 18, 29, 33-34; 23:22; 25:35-38; Mt 19:19; 22:39; Mk 12:31-33; Lk 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Jam 2:8)

 

The fields, olive trees, and vineyards are not to be picked clean.  The landowners were to leave a portion of food so that those who were unfortunate could glean from them.  This kept the needy from being humiliated by having to beg or accept welfare; they could still work for their food.  We see an example of this in Ruth’s providing for herself and her mother-in-law by gleaning the rich man’s fields (Ru 2).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 260)

 

Prohibiting Israelites from charging interest on loans to their countrymen was driven by the sense of community and the desire to inhibit economic stratification, which often resulted in debt-slavery.  By addressing would-be lenders rather than borrowers, Moses makes interest-free loans a matter of responsibility for those with means rather than a right of the poor.  True righteousness (cf. 16:20) is demonstrated when the rich lend willingly to those in need, without compulsion or desire to profit from someone else’s misfortune.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 547)

 

By leaving the harvest unfinished, the caring Israelite could demonstrate his recognition of the importance of each person’s dignity.  A poor person could at least salvage something of his personal worth by gleaning in the fields of a neighbor rather than by going begging.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 284)

 

Deuteronomy had in mind people in desperate poverty, forced to borrow from wealthier neighbors simply to survive; and the evidence shows that ancient rates of interest were exorbitant.  This law, then, is another example of Deuteronomy’s deep concern for human welfare.  It was equally concerned to see the Sinai covenant binding Israelites together in mutual consideration:  this is yet another instance of loving one’s neighbor as oneself.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 132)

 

The sense is therefore, “Do not pick the forgotten sheaf, the remaining olives and grapes, they belong to the alien, orphan, the widow.”  The remainder of the harvest is theirs; they have every right to do the final harvesting themselves.  This means that the landless are not to be totally dependent on handouts from the landowners after every scrap of the crop has been harvested by them.  Rather, they are to have the opportunity to work for their own benefit in the fields of God’s land.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 261)

 

God here inculcates liberality upon the possessors of land, when their fruits are gathered:  for, when His bounty is exercised before our eyes, it invites us to imitate Him; and it is a sign of ingratitude, unkindly and maliciously, to withhold what we derive from His blessing.  God does not indeed require that those who have abundance should so profusely give away their produce, as to despoil themselves by enriching others; and, in fact, Paul prescribes this as the measure of our alms, that their relief of the poor should not bring into distress the rich themselves, who kindly distribute (2 Cor 8:13).  God, therefore, permits every one to reap his corn, to gather his vintage, and to enjoy his abundance; provided the rich, content with their own vintage and harvest, do not grudge the poor the gleaning of the grapes and corn.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 152)

 

Since the grain at the edges of fields was often inferior in quality and mixed with weeds, and since grapes and olives on the ground tended to ripen prematurely or have some defect and quickly spoil, the significance of these provisions was limited.  So Moses enjoins landowners and harvesters to leave for the poor whole sheaves of grain already cut and tied but which they had neglected to take home, those grapes still on the vines that harvesters had overlooked, and olives that do not fall to the ground when the branches are beaten to shake them loose.  The point is, rather than begrudging fallen and inferior fruit to the poor, the oversights of the harvest and late maturing crops and grapes and olives are to be left intentionally for the benefit of aliens, the fatherless, and widows.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 572)

 

The spirit of this law is close to the laws in 15:1-18, in which the normal canons of commercial activity are undermined by Deuteronomy’s insistence that people live for the interests of the other, even at personal cost, in the matter of the material necessities of life.  The ban on interest-taking is the other side of the appeal not to withhold a loan from the needy person, even when it is unlikely that the capital will be recovered (15:9).  The promise of blessing reminds the people that it is Yahweh who gives wealth, and therefore they need not make selfish calculations about acquiring it.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 352)

 

II-  Do not take advantage of losers.  Advantage them. (Dt 23:17-19; 24:17, 19-21; see also: Dt 24:14-15;: Prov 14:20; 19:4, 7; 22:16, 22; 28:3, 8; Jam 2:1-6)

 

Such is the evil of human nature, that desperate human need is commonly an opportunity for unscrupulous exploitation.  True to OT ideals of justice and compassion, the ban on interest in Deuteronomy, Exodus, and Leviticus is primarily concerned to stop the hard-hearted from making a profit out of hard times.  This may, as some think, be the reason why the ban did not apply to foreigners.  The foreigners in mind (though not, it must be said, stated in the law) may have been commercial traders, with whom interest bearing transactions were allowed.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 251)

 

When people who call themselves Christians do not treat with respect and kindness those whom the world considers weak and insignificant and those who are supposedly their “subordinates,” we can say that they are not genuine Christians.  Even today we see powerless people exploited by powerful people.  Unreasonable demands are made on workers that are not good for their emotional and physical well-being.  It is not easy for relatively wealthy Christians to rise up against this, especially if they are friends with the perpetrators of this injustice.  Sometimes these unjust people are even respected members of and generous donors to our churches.  Biblical Christians must speak up for those who have no voice and pay the cost of standing up for their rights.  Preachers must preach that exploiting the poor is wrong.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 534)

 

By giving permission to take interest from foreigners, the Bible shows that interest is not wrong per se.  Lending as a business is permissible.  Therefore, banking today is not un-Biblical.  What is wrong is exploiting a needy person.  As inflation in those days was negligible, it would not be a big sacrifice for a person of means to help a needy brother without asking for interest.  But an unkind person could exploit a poor person in desperate need of funds by giving him money at exorbitant interest.  The borrower would take the money because of his emergency and end up being enslaved to the lender, sometimes for life.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 536)

 

Interest rates were exorbitant in much of the ancient Near East.  Some contracts discovered among the Nuzi tablets from northern Assyria in the fifteenth century B.C. report interest rates as high as fifty percent.  It seems that lenders charged such a high interest rate because they demanded no security or collateral on the loan.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 217)

 

If a man has wealth, he has the means to help the oppressed by lending them money without interest.  Charging a brother interest would ultimately increase the debt that produced his need for the loan in the first place.  It would also reveal an attitude unworthy of a member of the covenant community.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 251)

 

Jesus didn’t oppose paying or requiring interest on commercial ventures; in the parables of the talents (Mt 25:14-30) and the ten minas (Lk 19:11-27), the master scolded his wicked, lazy servant who refused to invest the money entrusted to him.  “You should have put my money on deposit with the bankers,” Jesus has the master telling the servant who’d buried his talent, “so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest” (Mt 25:27).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 218)

 

Poverty is a precarious state, from which it may become impossible to recover.  The present law may also have the poor in view; nevertheless, it says nothing about the economic status of the borrower.  One must not lend at interest to any Israelite, which would include even someone who is solvent.  But Deuteronomy and the OT generally are much concerned over the plight of the poor and about reducing the gulf between rich and poor.  We see this in the law of sabbatical debt release (Dt 15:1-11) and in the law of sabbatical slave release (Dt 15:12-18; cf. Ex 21:2-11) and may assume it to be a consideration here too.  The Jubilee Year release of Lv 25:39-46 had a similar egalitarian aim in ancient Israel.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 663)

 

The OT looks upon lending at interest with disdain (Ps 15:5; Prv 28:8), although lending itself is highly praised, being equated with generosity and raised to the level of moral obligation for any who wish to conduct their affairs with justice (Ps 36:25-26; 112:5).  This same view is expressed by the prophet Ezekiel (Ez 18:8, 13, 17; 22:12) and repeated later by Josephus (Ant. 4.266).  For Ezekiel it is lawful and right not to lend at interest, this being one practice among many that distinguishes the righteous from the unrighteous.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 663-4)

 

The OT’s laws against interest-taking are unique in the ANE.  Of the several Pentateuchal laws, Deuteronomy’s is the most comprehensive, forbidding interest-taking on anything whatever (cf. Ex 22:25; Lv 25:36-37).  In other nations, interest might be levied not only on money, but on a wide range of goods that might be lent, at rates of between 20% and 50%.  Deuteronomy also differs from the other Pentateuchal laws in not specifically focusing on the poor, but apparently applying the rule to Israelites generally.  Even so, the underlying point of the prohibition is presumably to make help accessible to the poor without its then becoming a new burden.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 352)

 

Since most loans in Israel were for the purpose of relieving distress, the principle behind the law was that another’s need should not be the occasion for profit.  The use of loans in international commerce was for another purpose.  Hence the foreigner is excluded from the requirement.  During the Middle Ages, when Jews in some places were denied the privilege of owning land, this law permitted them to enter the banking business.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 472)

 

In the Middle Ages, the church sponsored a charity similar to modern-day urban food banks.  Created as an alternative to loan sharks, montes pietatius helped poor people manage meager incomes.

These charities provided low-interest loans to poor families, ensuring there was enough food on the table.  Started by the Franciscans, who opened more than 150 montes pietatius, they became widespread throughout Europe.  In 1514, even Pope Julius II gave an edict endorsing them.  The institutions were the lifeblood of poor European peasants.

Tody, we know them as pawn shops.

Pawn shops evolved from a tool designed to care for the needy to an instrument often preying on families in distress.  Something intended for good drifted from its mission.  (Peter Greer, Chris Horst, Mission Drift, 19-20)

 

III-  Allow your past sufferings and/or experiences to motivate you to compassion.  (Dt 24:18, 22; see also: Dt 5:15; 15:12-15; Prv 21:13; 22:7; 2 Cor 1:3-6)

 

By living the present in the light of Yahweh’s grace in the past, their hearts will remain soft toward the poor.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 572)

 

Israel’s slavery in Egypt should have made the people sensitive to the needs of the less fortunate.  Moreover, that experience is said to be the reason for God’s commands that they act kindly toward the alien, the widow, and the orphan (vv. 18, 22).  This compassionate consideration arising from one’s own former, less-fortunate condition contrasts with the common psychology that excuses criminal action on the basis of some former mistreatment of the criminal.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 148)

 

IV-  God promises to bless us if we live out Christ’s command.  (Dt 23:20; 24:19; see also: Dt 15:4-6; Psa 15:4-5; Prov 11:24; 14:31; 19:17; 22:9; 28:8, 22, 27; Mt 19:21; Mk 10:21; Lk 6:30-38; 12:33; 18:22; 2 Cor 8; 1 Tim 6:17-19)

 

Mother Teresa says, “Only in heaven will we fully realize how much we owe to the poor for helping us love God better through them.”  (Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado, Always the Poor Mother Teresa: Her Life and Message, 54)

 

The Sisters make efforts to offer love, but not pity.  Pity is somewhat arrogant because it comes in a way, from looking down at others.

The attitude of the Missionaries of Charity comes from a deeper feeling.  They consider the poorest of the poor as persons who are somehow more deserving than others.  They are truly Christ under the guise of pain and poverty.

This is why the Sisters put their whole heart into everything they do.  Even though they do not mean to, they often evoke the deepest feelings of gratitude and admiration from those they serve–feelings which had been buried by a lifetime of neglect and scorn from others.  (Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado, Always the Poor Mother Teresa: Her Life and Message, 61)

 

Sometimes the church is reluctant to speak against injustice and unrighteousness as it depends financially on people who earn income through unjust means.  We must remember that God does not need money, as he owns everything on earth.  Therefore, we do not need to compromise our principles in order to fund the work of God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 535)

 

The overlooked sheaf of grain was to be left for the underprivileged so that the Lord’s blessing may rest on the owner’s endeavors (v. 19).  Only once are the olive trees to be beaten with poles to harvest olives (v. 20).  The remaining olives were for the alien, the widow, and the orphan.  In grape harvest also the vines were gone over only once so that the needy could have the remainder (v. 21).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 148)

 

The present prohibition against using the gains from harlotry in the service of God is doubtless related to the concept that only what is without blemish can form a worthy offering to the Lord.  The question frequently arises as to whether the church has a right to refuse money from “tainted” sources, e.g., in the early days of the West the church sometimes solicited funds from gamblers and purveyors of vice.  Yet the answer ought to be fairly clear.  The end does not justify the means, and the divine blessing cannot be upon gains from evil enterprises.  All lotteries and games of chance at church functions are questionable means for undergirding the spread of Christ’s gospel.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 471)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God and Creator of the Universe who values losers highly and blesses those who have similar values.  He gave us His Law to allow all of us to become winners.

 

Gospel Application: Jesus became a loser so we might become winners.  He was rich and became poor for us.  He was perfectly righteous and became a sinner for us.  He was God and became man for us.  He was King of kings and Lord of lords and became a servant for us.  (Mt 1:18-25; Jn 1:1-12; 2 Cor 5:21; 8:9; Phil 2:1-11; 1 Tm 6:15; Heb 1:1-4; 1 Jn 1:1-3; Rv 17:14; 19:16)

 

Jesus has a different set of qualifications for his kingdom than does civilization.  His stories consistently made the wrong character the hero:  the prodigal son not the responsible elder brother, the Good Samaritan not the good rabbi, a scabby beggar not a rich man.  Those people most attracted to him included undesirables such as a half-caste woman with a checkered past, a blind beggar, ten exiles with leprosy, a corrupt tax collector, a prostitute, a Roman soldier–all outcasts by the standards of proper Jewish society.  Religious professionals, legal scholars, a king, and a governor:  these were the ones who arranged Jesus’ death.  (Philip Yancey, Vanishing Grace, 213)

 

Charity to the Poor.  [Of old,] it was wicked and unlawful to gather the sheaves left after the harvest, or to glean the vines after the vintage or to gather up the olives that remain after the trees were picked, because these things were to be left for the poor.   Now if this was commanded those who were under the law, what shall we say of those who are in Christ?  To them the Lord says, “Unless your justice abounds more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  –Pseudo-Basil  (Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 3, 317)

 

The genealogy of Jesus reveals God’s grace to prostitutes, for in it Rahab, a prostitute, appears as an ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:5).  Very often today vulnerable young men and women are pushed into prostitution forcibly by unscrupulous people who promise jobs for them in the city or in another country.  Prostitutes are often subject to terrible physical abuse and frustration.  Like any other sinners, they need Jesus.  Therefore, though we do not condone their profession, the church must share the gospel with them and look for ways to win a hearing for the gospel.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 535-6)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Be like Jesus and do what you can to turn losers into winners.   

 

The surrounding nations may consider slaves as having no rights, but God’s people are to treat them as humans, created in the image of God.  An important feature of humanness is the freedom to make choices regarding one’s destiny.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 533)

 

So What?:  In God’s economy, we are all naturally born losers.  Satan has perverted and corrupted the God image and likeness in all of mankind.  Jesus has come to restore that image and likeness and make us all winners.  Trust in Jesus to become a winner in light of eternity and help others to do the same.

 

You have a mission to fulfill, a mission of love, but this must begin in your own homes.  You must have time for your own first, and after that your works for others.  Make your homes centers of compassion and forgive endlessly.  Be kind and merciful.  Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier.  Let us begin, then, in the place where we are, with the people with whom we are the closest, and then spread out.  (Jose Luis Gonzalez-Balado, Always the Poor Mother Teresa: Her Life and Message, 93)

 

We all long for heaven where God is, but we are all offered the opportunity to be in heaven with God starting right now and to be happy with Him at this very moment.  Being happy with God means loving as He loves, helping as He helps, giving as He gives, serving as He serves, saving as He saves, being with Him twenty-four hours a day in touch with His suffering image in the poorest of the poor.  -Mother Teresa

 

From these passages we learn that it is not enough to refrain taking the goods of another, unless we also constantly exercise humanity and mercy in the relief of the poor.  Heathen authors also saw this, although not with sufficient clearness, (when they declared) that, since all men are born for the sake of each other, human society is not properly maintained, except by an interchange of good offices.  Wherefore, that we may not defraud our neighbors, and so be accounted thieves in God’s sight, let us learn, according to our several means, to be kind to those who need our help; for liberality is a part of righteousness, so that he must be deservedly held to be unrighteous who does not relieve the necessities of his brethren when he can.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 126)

 

These instructions build on earlier legislation (Lv 19:9-10; 23:22), where Yahweh had called on landowners to leave the corners of their fields uncut and leave for the poor and the alien whatever they dropped while harvesting the crop.  These instructions are even more pastoral, seeking to instill in the covenant community a spirit of generosity that goes far beyond the original legislation.  (1) They expand the demographic scope by adding the fatherless and widow to the alien under the rubric of the “poor.”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 571)

 

 

There is no one more vulnerable and subject to abuse than a baby in its mother’s womb.   This is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday.   The only reason God may not be judging America because of its killing of hundreds of thousands of unborn children each and every year; and instead, chooses to continue to bless America,  may be because of you and your love for righteousness.

 

JESUS:

LOVER OF LOSERS

 

 

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