By Randall Pressnell
Senior Pastor, Oak Grove Baptist Church, Mount Carmel
Focal Passage: Deuteronomy 15:7-11
Herschel Hobbs told a story of one man asking another, “If you had a thousand hogs, would you give me half of them?” “Sure!” came the man’s reply. “Well, if you had a hundred hogs, would you give me half of them?” Again, “Sure!” was the answer. “Okay, if you had two hogs would you give me half of them?” “That isn’t fair!” came the reply. “You know that I have two hogs!” The man was generous with what he did not have, but was miserly with what he did have.
One characteristic of those who follow God is generosity. After wandering around 40 years in the wilderness Moses was trying to transform this new generation of Israelites to have a few more characteristics of God before entering the Promised Land. So, he reiterated to them God’s faithfulness in delivering them from Egypt. He repeated for them the Ten Commandments. He taught them to tithe the abundant crops of the land God was giving them. But one area they needed to work on was demonstrating God’s generosity.
So, in today’s text Moses taught them to be generous to their poor by forgiving the debt of poor Israelites at the end of every seventh year. The purpose of this practice was to prevent the creation of a wealthy class of Israelites who could oppress those who owed them money. So, herein are the laws governing the practice of the “sabbatical year.” Underlying this practice is the fact that all blessings come from God. So, forgiveness of debt became a source of further blessing from God to the poor. Concurrently, forgiving debt taught the creditors to be generous to the poor since God is sure to continue blessing them in the Promised Land if they are obedient to Him. The principle of generosity in this text teaches you to be ready to help the poor of your generation as well. How can you be ready to help the poor of your generation? First…
You must open your heart to the poor (15:7-9). God’s heart for the poor is seen in 15:4 as there will be no poor among you. If Israel is obedient — the promise is more blessing from God. And the sabbatical year itself will liberate those experiencing financial reversals to get a fresh start. The result will be that there are no poor among them. If you follow God your heart should reflect God’s heart toward the poor. It is often the case that the poor are judged as creating their own mess. And in some cases bad decisions doubtless are at the root of bad financial situations. In other cases circumstances beyond the control of the debtor may be at play. In either case the LORD says you must not be hardhearted toward your poor brother. God’s solution to the situation is for you to freely loan him enough for whatever need he has. You are then warned not to deny a loan because of this wicked thought in your heart that the sabbatical year is near. You must open your heart to the poor! Next …
You must open your hand to the poor (15:7-8, 10-11). You are told not to be tightfisted toward your poor brother (v. 7). But, you are to open your hand to him (v. 8). Next, you are told you must willingly open your hand (v. 11) to the poor brother. It’s not enough just to obey. You must not have a stingy heart when you give (v. 10). The message is abundantly clear! You must practice generosity, willingly and joyfully opening your hand to the poor.
So, be ready to help the poor. Remember, the Lord knows how many hogs you have!
— Pressnell is senior pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church, Mount Carmel.