Posts Tagged ‘Deuteronomy 24’

Preserving Dignity

There is not much dignity for  a poor man.  He relies on others for help.  He never knows if that help will be granted and if it is granted he knows that he may well be despised for the burden he brings to his benefactor.

When we are rich and we have enough of a conscience and enough love in our hearts to reach out in kindness to the poor, it’s important that we do so in a way that not only meets their needs but  also maximises their dignity.  So how do we do that?  Well Deuteronomy 24 is not a bad place to go for ideas.

10 “When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 1

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.

21 “When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.

The requirement to leave the stray or forgotten grapes and sheaves for the poor might on a cursory reading be assumed to simply ensure that the poor are required to work for their needs.  Certainly it does serve the function of preventing a welfare mentality among those who are lazy and don’t want to work.  However there is more going on here.  Verse 10 has nothing to do with making people work.  The neighbour is obviously in need so he seeks a loan.   You go to him to get some sort of guarantee that he will make every effort to pay that loan back but the law requires you to stay outside while he gets something to give you as security.  Why?  Surely it’s to maintain his dignity.  Don’t put pressure on him while he tries to find something.  Don’t humiliate him as he looks around to find something that he deems valuable enough.  Make it appear like a dignified business transaction and not a great favour on your part.  Preserve his dignity.

In this same context we read about not retrieving forgotten sheaves or gathering fallen grapes and olives from the harvest.  It prevents unnecessary dependency but also preserves dignity.  The poor man goes home feeling he has earned his food.  While it might make the rich man feel better about himself if he were to gather these leftovers up and then hand them out to the poor, it is much less likely to make the poor man feel so good as he would if they were left behind for him to gather.

But what if you so love the poor that you want to give them more than such methods will allow?  Well the story of Ruth tells us to get creative.  Boaz instructs his workers to intentionally leave more grain lying in the field for Ruth than would normally occur when harvesting.  Ruth is more abundantly supplied but once again her dignity is preserved.  We must give to the poor but we should also think of creative ways to do so, ways that will preserve their dignity.

But what if the person you are helping can’t do ANYTHING?  What if they are an invalid who needs people to cook and clean and wash etc.  Well, get creative. Perhaps find things in them that are a benefit to you.   Tell them what you get out of spending time with them.  You might make them feel like you are benefiting from the excercise as much as they.     Indeed make them feel like serving them is a privilege, because guess what, it is.  It is being like Christ who came not to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many.

I can think of numerous people who have not only met my needs but also preserved my dignity during my illness.  There’s the woman who once told me her family ‘needed’ me to visit when I needed someone to look after me.  There’s the guy that drives 3 hrs to come and stay with me when my folks are away and tells me that he enjoys driving and that looking after me gives him a break from work (it also makes him considerably poorer).  There’s the girl who told me that helping me didn’t feel like service but a privilege.   There’s the retiree who offers to drive me anywhere I need to go because it gives him something to do as he has too much spare time as a retiree.  All ways of serving my needs while saving my dignity.

Although this blog is rather dormant and this post may never be read, if you are now reading it and can think of other ways that your dignity has also been preserved when needing help, feel free to share more ways of applying the wisdom of Deuteronomy 24.

The Forgetfulness of the Rich is a Remembering of the Poor – Deut 24

In the past I have made the mistake of thinking of God’s law almost solely as an instrument intended to convict of sin and therefore drive us to Christ.  The law does do this but it also tells us many things about the character of God.  It shows us not only his justice but also his grace and mercy.  One of my favourite examples of this is the requirement in Deuteronomy 24 that forbids the retrieval of a sheaf that has been left out in the field. It is to be left there for the poor.   The rich are required to show mercy to the poor even through the way that they respond to their own forgetfulness.  According this law, the forgetfulness of the rich is a remembering of the poor.  Truly, God’s laws are not burdensome,  they are full of kindness and compassion.