Deu_15:7-11. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand: and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
THE existence of various ranks and orders among men is the necessary consequence of civilization. A perfect equality among them is impossible in the nature of things: nor, if it were made to exist, could it continue for any time. An inequality of condition is even far more conducive to the general good, not only in that it tends to keep up a due subordination of the lower to the higher classes, but that it binds all the classes of men together by the ties of mutual usefulness and dependence. Even in the state that was formed by God himself, it was ordained that such a diversity of ranks should subsist [Note: “The poor shall never cease out of the land,” ver. 11.]. Still, however, it never was the divine intention that some should be left destitute of all the comforts of life, while others rioted in opulence and prodigality. To prevent this he commanded his people to forgive the poor their debts at the year of release [Note: He assigns as his reason for this ordinance. “to the end that there may be no poor among you.” ver. 3; 4. See the translation in the margin of the Bible.], and required all who should enjoy a comparative state of affluence, to relieve the poor and indigent.
In discoursing on the words before us, we shall consider,
The duty enjoined—
God commanded his people to exercise liberality to the poor—
[He had appointed every seventh year to be a year of release [Note: ver. 1, 2.]. By this means the poor could not be oppressed for any length of time. But this very law might also tend to the disadvantage of the poor. To prevent any such evil consequence, God ordered that his people should be equally favourable to the poor notwithstanding the year of release. He enjoined the rich to lend to the poor, even under a moral certainty of losing their debt. Yea, they were to perform this duty in a bountiful and willing manner.]
His injunctions to them are, as far as it respects the spirit of them, equally binding upon us—
[God requires us to “do good and lend, hoping for nothing again [Note: Luk_6:35.].” And certainly this is our duty. The relation which the poor bear to us necessarily involves in it this obligation [Note: They are four times in the text called “our brethren.” The force of this idea is admirably expressed. Job_31:15-19 and it is further confirmed by the words of our Lord. Mat_25:40.]. The Scriptures at large, as well as the immediate expressions in the text, inculcate this duty in the strongest terms [Note: “Thou shall not harden thy heart thine hand — Thou shalt surely lend—surely give—I command thee saying. Thou shalt open thine hand wide,” &c. See this enjoint on all generally, Luk_11:41.; on all individually, 1Co_16:2.; and in the most solemn manner, 1Ti_6:17. “Charge,” &c.].
The manner also of performing this duty is as strongly enjoined as the duty itself. We must act bountifully towards the poor, proportioning our alms to our own ability, and, as far as possible, to their necessities [Note: “Thou shalt open thine hand wide — lend him sufficient for his need.” See true bountifulness defined, 2Co_8:12.; exemplified, 2Co_8:2.; encouraged, 2Co_9:6.]. We must also administer relief cheerfully. Grudging and niggardly thoughts are apt to arise in our minds: but they proceed from a “wicked heart;” and must be guarded against with all possible circumspection [Note: “Beware, &c.—and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother—thine heart shall not be grieved when than givest,” &c. See similar directions, Rom_12:8; 1Ti_6:18. “Ready to distribute; willing to communicate.”]. Our alms are then only acceptable to God, when they are offered with a willing mind [Note: 2Co_9:7.].]
To call forth a just sense of our duty, let us consider,
The arguments with which it is enforced—
Waving all other arguments that might be adduced, we shall confine our attention to those specified in the text. There are two considerations urged as inducements to the performance of this duty:
The danger of neglecting it—
[Men are apt to think themselves sole proprietors of what they have; but, in fact, they are only God’s stewards. The poor have, from God’s command, a claim upon us; and when their distresses are not relieved, he will hear their complaints. He expressly warns us that, “when they cry to him, it shall be sin to us.” Our guilt contracted by want of liberality, shall surely be visited upon our own heads; it shall bring upon us the execration of our fellow-creatures [Note: Pro_28:27.], a dereliction from our God [Note: Pro_21:13.], yea, an everlasting dismission from his presence and glory [Note: Mat_25:41-43. “For.”] — — —Who that reflects a moment on these consequences, will not “beware” of indulging a disposition that must infallibly entail them upon him?]
The reward of practising it—
[Heaven cannot be purchased by almsgiving: and to think it could, would be a most fatal delusion. Nevertheless God has annexed a blessing to the performance of this duty; “For this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all that thou doest.” Supposing our motives and principles be such as the Gospel requires, and our alms be really the fruits of faith and love, the Scriptures assure us that they shall be followed with blessings temporal [Note: Luk_6:35, last part. and Pro_3:9-10.]—spiritual [Note: Isa_58:7; Isa_58:10-11.]—eternal [Note: Luk_16:9; Luk_14:14 and 1Ti_6:19 and Mat_25:34-35. “For.”]. Yea, God, speaking after the manner of men, condescends to say, that we make him our debtor; and to promise, that He will repay us the full amount of whatever we give to others for his sake [Note: Pro_19:17 and 2Co_9:6.]. What greater encouragement can we have than such assurances as these?]
[The occasion on which we now solicit your alms, is urgent; the objects of distress are many—the season inclement—work scarce—wants numerous—provisions high—and few to administer relief.
Consider then the urgency of the call—the danger of non-compliance—the blessings promised—and especially, the great account. Guard against a grudging spirit: and act towards the poor at this time, as you, in a change of circumstances, would think it right for them to act towards you.]