If there be among you a poor man of one of your brothers within any of your gates in your land which the LORD your God gives you…
Having inculcated the forgiveness of a brother's debts during the sabbatic year, Moses now proceeds to speak of the open-handedness which should precede that year. It might be made a pretext for refusing a poor brother a helping hand that the year was almost on when the debt would be cancelled legally; but to make this a pretext for niggardliness would only betray wickedness of heart. The most beautiful consideration is thus inculcated for the poor; and as "the poor shall never cease out of the land," there will be the call evermore for this open-handed-ness. Now this poor-law regulation is a most beautiful illustration of what God does for us; and something like it will yet supersede the hard-heartedness of our national systems.
I. GENEROSITY SHOULD NOT BE TOO CALCULATING IN ITS TURN. Doubtless, often times it receives a noble return, but this should not be too much regarded, lest the speculative spirit mar the motive altogether. Nor again should we harden our hearts under the persuasion that our generosity is misspent, and that we shall never be repaid in any way. God has himself shown us true generosity in making his sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good, and in sending his rain upon the unjust as well as the just. And hence we are exhorted to "lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35). There is something noble in an uncalculating generosity.
II. IT IS THE NEED OF THE POOR BROTHER WHICH WE ARE BOUND TO SUPPLY. That is, we are asked to supply him not with the luxuries or comforts of life, as if to these he had a right; but with his needs. The open-handedness will be considerate so far as not to encourage unworthy dependence. The brother will be helped in a brotherly way - enabled to help himself, and having his needs only supplied. This principle has been urged in connection with our national poor-law system. If it is lost sight of, then a premium is paid to idleness, and the "ne'er-do-wells" become the favorites of fortune. Our Father in heaven acts in the same wholesome fashion. "He supplies all our need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." He supplies us with salvation because we cannot save ourselves; he supplies us with what enables us to help ourselves. He could keep the whole world in idleness, "ladies and gentlemen at large," but he prefers to keep the whole world in work. Our reliance on God is for our need.
III. OPEN-HANDEDNESS FOR GOD'S SAKE IS SURE OF ITS REWARD, "The liberal soul shall be made fat." "He that watereth others shall be watered also himself." "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth." In this way the Lord showeth in both dispensations how "he loveth a cheerful giver." When a religious man, acting on principle, lives an open-handed life, he has the finest business stimulus. He works that he may have the more to give, and thus be the more God-like. There is nothing so hallows business in all its ramifications as this desire to be able to help those in need.
IV. IT IS A SOLEMN THOUGHT THAT THE POOR ARE NEVER TO CEASE OUT OF THE LAND IN THE PRESENT DISPENSATION. The unequal distribution of wealth, the improvident habits of many, and the pressure of population upon subsistence seem destined to keep the poor always with us. And in consequence our Savior stepped out of his rich condition in the bosom and home of the Father and became poor, that he might call every poor man a brother, and leave the poor his legatees after his departure. We need the spectacle of poverty to move our hard hearts to the generosity required. Were abundance the rule, and no human being wanted bread, the selfishness of the race would know no bounds. But the poor ones call for the sympathy which Jesus so abundantly deserves, and we can now sell our spikenard and give to them with all the careful calculation which a Judas once desired (John 12. l-8). Let our help to others be systematic, because conscientious, and then shall it prove a perennial rill, benefiting the lives of many as it wends its way down the vale of years to the ocean that engulfs us all. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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:
WEB: If a poor man, one of your brothers, is with you within any of your gates in your land which Yahweh your God gives you, you shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your poor brother;