Stay True To God

Taking Care of the Poor

Deuteronomy 15

Jerry A Collins




v        Should we lend money to people who are poor?

v        How would releasing slaves remind me of God’s grace?

v        What would slaying the first-born of my herd teach?


Ian Newby Walder knocked on the door of our church in downtown London, England, one cold afternoon. I invited him into the office and offered a cup of hot tea. Then he told me his story. Once employed in the city, he had been sacked and under hard times for months. He needed some help to make ends meet and wondered what we might be able to do as a church. This same story was repeated often by any number of people who made the rounds in area churches trying to find a way to get some money. We helped Ian that afternoon and told him we would help thru area shelters in the future rather than just giving him money again. Ian and many like him, a number of them often staying overnite just next door to the church in a city park, were truly destitute and poor. The truth is there will never cease to be the poor among you. We have them in Muskegon too. God provided a way for the Israelites to manage poverty in the nation. He instituted a sabbatical year—every 7th year to help alleviate the endless cycle of poverty and give the poor a new beginning while teaching the rest a spirit of generosity and freedom from greed and hoarding. This was basically done by giving up your possessions in at least three ways.


Cancel all debt 1-3 At the end of every 7th year you shall cancel all debt. This was called the sabbatical year or year of release. Any loan you made was to be canceled completely then. This was a way of preventing poverty in the land. This was only for fellow Israelites. This included your neighbor as well as family you may have loaned money too. They can still hold foreigners to their debt but as repeated in vs 3, any Israelite should receive the benefit of release from any kind of debt owed you. Of course, this meant the one releasing the debt had to take a real hit in financial terms. There was a real lose that the lender had to absorb. So giving was meant to be costly—it involved sacrifice on the part of the one giving. In many cases, it was giving without expecting any payment back—giving to those who could never repay you.

God’s favor will follow 4-6 If you keep God’s Word, there will not be any poor among you vs 4. The creditor would need to have no fear of releasing this debt because God would not let him suffer because he did this. This would, of course, require faith, but the promise would hold true for them while in the land and obeyed the voice of God in this matter vs 5. Listen obediently, and observe carefully the voice of the Lord so that this blessing would not fail. God repeats this scenario in vs 6—he will bless them as He has promised to do to reinforce their motivation to pursue God’s will in this matter. He reminds them that—the one who borrows is the slave the one who lends is the ruler. God’s favor on Israel as they obey Him and generously and freely lend to the poor among them will supply Israel with the wealth to rule over many nations who will be willing to do business with Israel. This way Israel will never be a debtor to foreign nations.

Lend to the poor 7-11 First, there is a warning—don’t not lend to the poor because the Sabbatical year is near and you won’t get your money back! The tendency to not lend and give is described: (1) harden your heart (hard-hearted) (2) close your hand (tight-fisted) (3) a base thot (grudgingly) (4) hostile eye (want ill-will) (5) give nothing (reluctant) (6) heart grieved (distraught). Most likely, this will be the tendency because you know you will take a hit especially if you give near the end of the 7 year cycle. Second, in sharp contrast, twice you are to lend with an freely open hand vs 8, 11. The extent of your giving (1) generously lend mentioned twice 8, 10 (2) sufficient to meet the total need 8 (3) perpetually since the poor will always be with you 11. Third, Otherwise the poor had the right to accuse you before the Lord as a sin 9. Again, god tells the giver He will be blessed in all of his work and undertaking as he obeys God. God will take care of the giver as he takes care of the poorer. The poor should consider it a loan so they should pay it back, up until the 7th year. The gift was not to make them irresponsible. The lender was not to look at it as something he expected to get back. This is the reality. There will never cease to be poor among you. Poverty is the result of your birth position (parents, government, personality, mental and physical condition) and a result of your choices. Your birth condition effects your choices but does not determine them. So for sure (1) poverty will always be there (2) it is almost impossible to cure (like most problems) (3) like most problems it can be treated (4) like most problems we treat it must be treated constantly without hope of cure but hope of maintaining stability. Like a person with sugar diabetes taking insulin. It is not a cure but it has to be constant and continual. Jesus helped the poor but He did not solve poverty. There were just as many poor when he left as when he came. His solution was the story of the good Samaritan—you help your neighbor—whoever comes across you path in need. Poor in Jesus’ day was often from situations they could not control—being an orphan, a widow, lame, blind. Today poverty usually because of sin like alcohol and drugs. So God wants to instill within us a spirit of generosity and magnanimous giving. Freedom from money and things release us to give generously and continuously to meet needs around us. America says, invest your money and free yourself to indulge. God says, give your money and free yourself to sacrifice.


Sometimes a person unable to pay debts would sell self as servant to pay creditor. (1) If the size of debt meant must work 6 yrs, he was freed the 7th vs 12. So this is not like black slavery of America which was kidnapping and sin. (2) When sent away do not send empty-handed. He should have something from your flocks to start over with 14 as the Lord has blessed you—sounds like NT giving. (3) If slave does not want to leave vs 16-17, but remain your slave then take a nail with ear to door as ceremony of slave forever—Paul describes himself as the voluntary life-long, never-ending slave of Christ. This reminds them and us vs 15 that our own welfare depends upon God grace to us. When God redeemed us, He completely provided for us so that we would not get into bondage again. So the slave who leaves should be completely provided for or in jeopardy of losing his freedom all over again. This may seem hard to do but you have gotten double the return with the slave vs 18. So do not be reluctant at all about releasing him then. Blessing in return for obedience is promised 4 times by God vs 4, 6, 10, 18. God will never become your debtor. Believe that and give when you know it cannot be given back to you. Believe that and give what may even be taken away from you.

1) Give, do not lend expecting it back. Lending and borrowing for Israel was to help the poor, not increase your business, like it is today. Borrow was what you did to survive, not buy a bigger house.  

2) we should give to the poor with the idea of meeting their needs, not necessarily curing their poverty. Curing poverty involves a change of their mental condition, personality etc., which we cannot control.  3) Treat others who work with you in such a way that they will choose to stay with you. One indication of a person is whether people want to stay around them a long time. Not everyone will want to stay but if you have a constant turnover of people, then something is wrong. The mighty men of who began with David were still with him when he died. 4) Believe God has your best interests at heart when you take hits giving