"Snippets" from David

Experience As A Teacher

Experience serves numerous roles in our lives. None is more powerful or has farther reaching significance than does its role as teacher. In that role, experience even has spiritual significance.

Israel in Egypt lived as poor, oppressed slaves. From their slavery past, they were to remember many things. Slavery experiences were to shape their future behavior. For example, in Israel, Jewish people were to hold other Jewish people in high regard.

The instructions concerning the way Jewish people treated Jewish people are (to us gentiles) almost beyond the point of belief. In this early age, they were to create social conditions that had the goal of eliminating poverty in their society (Deuteronomy 15:4). Though poverty would be one of those "forever problems" (Deuteronomy 15:11), Jewish people were to attack the poverty problem as though it could be solved.


Every seven years they were to give a Jewish debtor a fresh start by forgiving his debt. This is one of the ways those who were not endebted would demonstrate their dependence on God (Deuteronomy 15:4, 6). The Jewish people were to do two things: (1) avoid debt, and (2) help Jewish people who were in debt. The first declared they should not enter the problem. The second said they should be compassionate toward their brothers who were trapped by the problem.

That may sound like a contradiction. Yet, consider this. Often the consequences of poverty are so severe that one will do most anything [including borrow money] to escape the clutches of poverty. One might think [and still often does] that the key to a fresh start is using debt to finance the fresh start. However, often a person lacks the judgment and skills to create the circumstances that produce a fresh start. As important as hard work is, too often hard work is not enough to create the fresh start. As a result, the poor who owed what they could not repay found themselves only poorer when their fresh start turned to dust.

The key to a fresh start in early Israel was escaping impossible indebtedness. In their society Jewish people created that possibility by forgiving the indebtedness of Jewish brothers every seven years. What were they to do to make this escape possible?

1. They would not harden their hearts to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7).
2. They would not close their hands to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:7).
3. They would be generous in lending to meet the needs of the poor (Deuteronomy 15:8).
4. In their lending, they would not calculate how close the seventh year was (Deuteronomy 15:9).
5. They would give joyfully as they helped the person in need, not in grief, because they depended on the Lord's blessing (Deuteronomy 15:10).
6. Because the problem was a "forever problem" would not keep them from doing what was right.

Some observations: (1) they would not evade responsibility by saying, "It is your fault that you are in this situation!" (2) They would help the poor in order to demonstrate their own dependence on God. (3) They would help their brothers for the joy of helping their brothers. (4) They would not excuse inactivity by saying, "This is a problem that cannot be fixed." The criteria for failing to respond MUST NOT BE, "This response will not do any good!" They responded to what was right in God's eyes!

One of the things that commonly keeps the church from becoming a universal community often is found in our attitudes toward and our actions in that matter of poverty. Admittedly, it is a complex problem, and its complexities vary from society to society. Money often is not the answer, but money is sometimes the answer. Effectiveness often involves the messiness of personal involvement. That is why the response is primarily to God. It is by loving God that we learn how to love people who constantly need the kindness of grace.

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