Breakfast on the back porch (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

A loophole is a condition or application of a law that allows for a person to subtly circumvent the law itself—all without formally breaking that law.  We’re pretty good at finding loopholes in our tax laws here in American, come April 15th!  But let’s put ourselves in the sandals of those to whom this text was originally written—the Jewish people of Israel, approximately 1400 BC.  Let’s pretend that we’re just finishing breakfast, and are preparing to head to our field to put in a long day’s work.  We look out the door of our small, stone house and see a poorly dressed man, standing.  He’s obviously waiting for us to come outside.

I say, “Oh, great.  There’s another one of them today.  What are we going to do?  We can’t become village lunch ticket!”

You say, “He’s poor, we’ve got to help him. ““If there is a poor man with you…””

“How do you know he’s poor,” I say.  “He’s got shoes on his feet, clothes on his back.  He walked here; he could just as easily have walked down the road to the next farm.”

You say, “But he’s a brother, like it says, “one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you…”

“Let’s not get literalistic or fundamenalistic here!” I say.  “How do you know he’s a Jewish brother, or from this town?  And sure, God may have giving the nation this land…but we’ve worked it ourselves, and own it, and need to be good stewards of it, not giving its produce away to every guy that comes along looking for a handout.”

You say, “It’s commanded, “you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother.”

“Well,” I say, relieved and a bit offended, “you certainly don’t know my heart, do you?  This is an issue between me and God.  Remember, “Judge not!”

“Right,” you say, “…but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.

“Yes!  I’m glad you quoted that verse,” I say.  Lend!  Lend!  We’re supposed to lend him what he needs—NOT give, but lend!

“Yes, but—“

“But how can you lend something to someone who doesn’t have any way to repay it?  And how can you even know that he’ll be around to repay it,” I say.

“But you just said that you don’t know that he’s really poor.  You said, “He’s got shoes on his feet, clothes on his ba—“

“Right!” I say.  We can’t know, so how can we really apply this literally, without some sort of verifica—“

Suddenly, I don’t have your attention anymore.  You’re looking out the doorway.

“He’s gone now,” you say.

“Just as well,” I say.  But I’m thinking “Mission accomplished.

And I say, as if changing the subject, “Tomorrow, let’s eat breakfast on the back porch.  It’s nice and quiet there in the mornings.”

–Pastor Ken

Reposted from May, 2009.

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Hurricane Harvey Aid

 

hurricane-harvey-rescue-3-ap-jt-170827_4x3_992Please plan ahead to contribute to the relief efforts for the citizens of Texas, after Hurricane Harvey.  We have dedicated our entire offering on 9/10 to hurricane recovery efforts. Please plan to give generously.  I’m not sure yet exactly where we will send our contribution–I’ve been looking over some sites on the web, including Charity Navigator Our leadership team is open to input regarding this, so please feel free to contact me (Pastor Ken) or the church with any suggestion you might have regarding that issue!

Meanwhile, let’s keep praying for the citizens of South Texas and Louisiana!

Warmly,

Pastor Ken

What are Our Boundaries?

15 ‘You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16 ‘You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:15-16

The boundaries of fairness and respect in our relationships are not to be determined by the external circumstances of poverty, wealth, or appearance. Instead, all people are to be treated with an equality that is based on our recognition of them as our neighbors.  We are not only to see that all are treated fairly in whatever dealings we may have with them, be it the PTA, Little League, the gas station, or simply the service counter at our local store.  And we are to practice fairness in our dealings with each other even when we are apart; we are not to slander our neighbor.  To slander someone simply means to speak of them in their absence in a way that is false, incomplete, or simply damages their reputation.  It stands to reason if someone isn’t present to defend themselves concerning what is being said about them, they aren’t really being treated fairly, are they?  In short, we are not to take any action, or utter any word, that detracts or diminishes the life of our neighbor.  Honestly, when it comes to dealing with living beings, we are simply not to act or speak against the life itself of that person.  “Who is my neighbor?” is a question once asked of the Lord Jesus by a man who wanted to draw some boundaries between the people he bore an obligation to and those he didn’t.  The Lord’s answer forever erased the lines people draw between those considered worthy of protection and those considered unworthy (Luke 10:25-37).  But let me put a different spin on the questions.  Ask yourself, “Who isn’t my neighbor…and why aren’t they?  Your answer will reveal your boundaries.

See you Sunday,

Pastor Ken