Friday, 4 December 2009

Caring for the poor IS part of God's plan.

We often say that God has a heart for the poor; I was thinking about this the other day and how God set laws in place that looked after the poor. Reading through Leviticus or Deuteronomy can be a bit of a trawl, but you will find there the rules that God set out for the Israelites to follow, both personally and as a nation. And frequently those rules included provisions that would look after the poor and disadvantaged:
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’ Lev 19: 9 – 10
‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’ Lev 19: 33 – 34
Time and again the sentiment behind these laws is repeated, as God emphasises to his people that they must care for the poor and the needy, the widow and the fatherless, and foreigners living in the country.
The impact that these laws had on people’s lives is hardly demonstrated more starkly than in the story of Ruth and Boaz, in the Old Testament. Ruth was a foreigner and a widow who chose to accompany her Israelite mother-in-law, Naomi, on her return to her native country. With no means of income, Ruth went to glean in the fields where the barley was being harvested. To cut the story short, Ruth ended up marrying Boaz, the owner of the field (read the full version in the book of Ruth in the Bible – it’s only four chapters). But the story didn’t end there; Ruth and Boaz had a son, Obed, who had a son Jesse, who was the father of King David. There are Ruth and Boaz, mentioned in Matthew 1, in the genealogy of Jesus. At this time of year, it’s interesting to think what an important part God’s heart and provision for the poor played in the history of the Christmas story. And at the same time, as we have been hearing lately about how God has plans for each of us, let’s not underestimate the difference we might make to the world by being ready and willing to obey and honour him, just like Boaz and Ruth.

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