Archive for the ‘The Poor’ category

Christian Treatment of the Poor – Conclusion?

August 5, 2011

I began this series (see all of my posts in the series here) a couple of months ago because I was interested in learning more about how the Bible, and the Mosaic Law in particular, teaches us to treat the poor. I have definitely learned some good principles that I am going to try and put into practice. I have also learned that I have a lot more to learn.

My interest in this topic began last year when I read an article by Bob Deffinbaugh titled “Taking Interest in Your Neighbor” which discussed ancient Israel’s “safety net” for the poor as provided by the Mosaic Law. After reading it several times I decided that the Mosaic Law is much more humane than it is given credit for.

I also kept looking for more information on the topic of a Scripture-based approach on how to treat the poor. In due time I stumbled upon the Judaism 101 web site which listed all 613 commandments contained in the Mosaic Law sorted by topic. Sure enough, I noticed that thirteen of the commands given in the Mosaic Law dealt with the poor (according to their reckoning). What was also interesting was that many of these commands were not dealt with in detail in Bob Deffinbaugh’s article. I had some new information to study!

So, over the past few weeks I have looked at each of the thirteen mitzvots (commands) concerning treatment of the poor and pulled together Jewish based commentary (I don’t know if a Rabbi would call it a commentary) and two different Christian commentaries.  By scholarly standards it isn’t much but I benefited from it.

I came away with two major impressions from this: (more…)

The Poor and Unfortunate – Deuteronomy 15:11

July 22, 2011

This is my seventh post on the commands in the Mosaic Law dealing with how the citizens of ancient Israel were to treat the poor and unfortunate in their nation. I am using the list of commands (mitzvots) on the poor and unfortunate I found at the Judaism 101 website. This week’s command is number fifty-two from the Judaism 101 list:

52.          To give charity according to one’s means (Deut. 15:11) (CCA38). See Tzedakah: Charity.

I am going to follow my usual procedure and quote the interpretation of this passage from the Concise Book of Mitzvoth to get the Jewish perspective on this passage and then follow-up by quoting from commentary by Gary Kukis (a contemporary dispensationalist) and Matthew Henry (a Presbyterian pastor who lived 300 years ago). I have felt the contrast between the commentaries to be interesting and enlightening. (more…)

The Poor and Unfortunate – Deuteronomy 15:7

June 24, 2011

I am continuing with my posts on the commands in the Mosaic Law regarding the poor and unfortunate. I am using the list of commands (mitzvots) on the poor and unfortunate I found at the Judaism 101 website. This week’s command is number fifty-one from the Judaism 101 list:

51. Not to refrain from maintaining a poor man and giving him what he needs (Deut. 15:7) (CCN62). See Tzedakah: Charity.

The thing that does not come through from the Judaism 101 website but is made very clear from the Concise Book of Mitzvoth (that is the book I am using to get a detailed Jewish view on these commands) is that Judaism considers this to be a command stating how Jews should treat other Jews. They do not consider this to be a command that requires the same level of conduct toward gentiles. This really struck me and I remembered the Pharisee who asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?”

I tracked down a short discussion of Luke 10:29 where the Pharisee asks who his neighbor is. The answer given in the excerpt below certainly points out a difference between Judaism and Christianity (just because many Christians fail to treat their neighbors as they are supposed to does not invalidate the command). Here is a quote from “The Fatal Failures of Religion: #2 Legalism (Matthew 5:17-48)”:

Sixth Example: Who Is My Neighbor? (43-48)

Nowhere is the abuse of the Old Testament Scripture by the scribes more evident that it is here: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy”’ (Matthew 5:43). Here is a statement which finds no support in the Scriptures at all. The narrowness and sectarianism of Judaism looked only within the ranks of their own to find their neighbor. It was no accident that the lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). This was a crucial question to the Jews.

The Jews could easily proof-text their hatred of the Gentiles. After all, God ordered Israel to kill all the Canaanites. The Psalmist prayed for the downfall of the wicked, who were his enemies. God brought death and destruction to the Egyptians at the Exodus. Should not the Jew show love toward his fellow-Jews (the upstanding ones) and hate toward the rest?

The Old Testament instructed the Israelites to show kindness toward the foreigner, and even to their enemies (Exodus 23:4,5; Proverbs 25:21-22). One’s neighbor, as Jesus clearly taught in the parable of the Good Samaritan, was anyone in need. It was not enough to cease from retaliation. Christianity goes even further than this—we are to return good for evil. This is the distinctiveness of true believers.

In any group of people they will tend to respond warmly to their own kind. Gentiles love Gentiles; Jews love Jews. The kind of love we must reflect is love for our enemies. In common grace, God gives blessings (rain and sun) to all men without distinction. If we are to reflect Him, we must be indiscriminate in our acts of goodness also.

Narrowness is often one of the criticisms against Christians. Oftentimes this criticism is justified. According to God’s Word, it has no place among Christians. (more…)

The Poor and Unfortunate – Deuteronomy 24:19-20

May 27, 2011

I am continuing with my posts on the commands in the Mosaic Law regarding the poor and unfortunate. I am using the list of commands (mitzvots) on the poor and unfortunate I found at the Judaism 101 website. This week’s commands are numbers forty-nine and fifty from the Judaism 101 list:

49.          Not to return to take a forgotten sheaf (Deut. 24:19) This applies to all fruit trees (Deut. 24:20) (negative) (CC10).
50.          To leave the forgotten sheaves for the poor (Deut. 24:19-20) (affirmative) (CCI5).

It is kind of strange that I couldn’t find mitzvoth forty-nine in my copy of the Concise Book of Mitzvoth. I haven’t had any trouble with finding any of the other commands but this one didn’t show up where it was supposed to. I don’t know that this is too terrible since the command seems to be rather self-explanatory.

I am not really sure what to say about this week’s commands. They are very similar to previous commands on the poor and unfortunate. The crop being discussed in Deuteronomy 24:20 is fruit from trees which is different than wheat or grapes but other than that I don’t see a difference. I want to go through and make sure that I study each of the commands so I am going to post about these commands anyway. Repeating words of wisdom and grace is never a waste of time or effort.

Like usual, I am going to quote from the Concise Book of Mitzvoth and then I am going to provide Gary Kukis’ and Matthew Henry’s commentaries on this passage.

From the Concise Book of Mitzvoth: (more…)

The Poor and Unfortunate – Exodus 22:21

May 13, 2011

I am continuing this week on the topic of how the Mosaic Law required Israel to treat the poor (see my previous post here). Today I am going to post on the mitzvot (command) given in Exodus 22:21. This verse, and the surrounding verses, commanded the citizens of Israel not mistreat widows and orphans.

The commentaries (for lack of a better word) below illustrate why I like showing both the Jewish and Christian interpretations of the passages dealing with the poor and unfortunate. They all seem correct and I wouldn’t disagree with anything that is written in any of them. However there is quite a difference in emphasis. Notice how the Jewish interpretation emphasizes that this command applies to any widow or orphan even if they are wealthy. I do believe that the vast majority of widows and orphans in ancient Israel were dirt poor and were in a very precarious position but this command doesn’t appear to be based on poverty alone. Widows and orphans are vulnerable to mistreatment even if they have money. The family unit being broken by the death of the husband (for the widow) or parent (for the orphan) makes those left behind vulnerable and needing protection. Could it be that an intact family is as important as money?

However, the Jewish interpretation of the penalty seems to assume that God will automatically move against those who mistreat the widow and orphan but the passage doesn’t appear to say that (maybe there are other passages that do?). In Exodus 23:22 it says that “if they call out to me I will hear.” I think that “if” is an important word in this context. It would appear that God does not move against those who prey upon the widow and orphan until He is asked to. I wonder how many of the oppressed (to use a modern word) could get relief, and see justice done, if they would only ask God? I think that is food for thought. (more…)

The Poor and Unfortunate – Leviticus 23:22

April 29, 2011

I am continuing this week on the topic of how the Mosaic Law required Israel to treat the poor (see last week’s post here). Today I am going to post on only one of those mitzvots (commands) which is given in Leviticus 23:22. Following last week’s formula I will provide the command as treated in the Concise Book of Mitzvot (a Jewish book dealing with how to follow the Mosaic Law) followed by Christian commentaries on the passage by Gary Kukis and Matthew Henry. Since the Kukis and Henry quotes are short I am going to add two more sets of comments by Gary North and Lee Smith on this passage. Both of the additional sets of comments are interesting but speculative. (more…)

Treatment of the Poor – Leviticus 19:9-10

April 22, 2011

This is my first post on what the Mosaic Law has to say regarding treatment of the poor (see “Christian Treatment of the Poor” for last week’s introduction). In preparation for this series of posts I went out and purchased the Concise Book of Mitzvoth (mitzvoth is Hebrew for commandment) so I could get a taste of Judaism’s understanding of the Mosaic Law.

I suppose that purchasing a book meant for those of the Jewish faith is a bit unusual for a Christian. In fact it is unusual enough that Amazon is now suggesting for me books for converts to Judaism. I think that’s kind of funny. At any rate I was a little disappointed in that the Concise Book of Mitzvoth (CBM) was more concise than I hoped for. The book does not try and explain any reasoning or purpose behind the commandments contained in the Mosaic Law. Rather, it reads like a series of legal statutes giving precise directions on how to meet the requirements of each of the commands. I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me. When you think about it, it makes sense that someone had to set down exactly how to follow the Mosaic Law so everyone would know how to keep from breaking the rules.

At any rate I am going to reproduce what the CBM says about each of the commandments about the poor and destitute along with analysis from a couple of different Christian commentaries on the same passages. I hope these will complement each other.

None the less the list of 613 Mitzvoth’s I found at Judaism 101’s web site has helped me identify which of the commands in the Mosaic Law apply to the poor. Of the thirteen commands that apply to the poor (Mitzvoths 40 through 52 in the list), eight of them deal with Leviticus 19:9-10. I am going to deal only with seven of those today because one of the eight (Mitzvoth 41) also references Leviticus 23:22 a which I will make a separate post about.

I am going to begin with quoting the seven Mitzvoth that are today’s topic. (more…)

Christian Treatment of the Poor

April 15, 2011

In the last three years many people here in the United States have been hurt by the economic downturn. I know people that have lost jobs or are working part time jobs out of necessity and really don’t have much money left over after paying their bills. Christian blogs have written a bit about the economic situation that we are in but I haven’t noticed as much as I would expect.

Doesn’t the Bible have anything to say about economics and how we (“we” being all people not just Christians) are to conduct our business and treat the poor? The answer is yes. The Mosaic Law wasn’t just a moral code, it was a set of laws that God considered to be sufficient to govern an entire nation. While we are no longer “under the [Mosaic] Law” it seems reasonable to me that we all can learn from the Mosaic Law how Jehovah (Yahweh) wanted the citizens of Israel to treat each other economically. How should we treat the poor? I pass panhandlers every day going to and from work. Should I be giving them a dollar when they hit me up? I knew that in 2 Thessalonians Paul gave instructions not to feed those who will not work: (more…)


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