Originally Published in The Global Voice, Volume 17, Issue 5, December 2017.
You can read the whole edition here.
Deuteronomy 15:7b you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.
We all have criteria that runs through our mind when we see someone in need; their level of cleanliness, appearance of health, and whether or not they seem to be living on the streets are often factors at the top of the list.
However, there are other criteria that seem to add to the softening of our heart; the person is an elderly woman, or a woman with little children, or a woman with a baby. You’d think a pregnant woman would compel one to do anything necessary to see the mother and baby protected, but on the night we now call Christmas Eve, a young pregnant woman from out of town couldn’t find any compassion in the great city of David.
What happened? According to Deuteronomy 15, people can harden their heart and close off their compassion to help those in need. The verse also implies that people can become conscious of this problem and refuse to soften their heart, open their hand, their resources, and their home to those in need.
“Sufficient to meet the need” is the qualifying phrase in the verse. Our biblical obligation is to help those in need, and help them to the degree that they have enough. I think sometimes we overcome this expectation by surrounding ourselves with others like ourselves, others whose needs are met. However, if hardening our heart is closing our hand, then softening our heart will come when we open our hand, and specifically, when we open our hand to to those in need and help them to have enough.
The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas has been to some a wonderful experience, and to others a sad time of the year. Some parents can’t get their kids what they need, let alone get them a gift related to their want. I’ll never forget listening to an immigrant friend of mine, from my childhood, tell me that for Christmas he got shoelaces, and that’s it. It was such a contrast to the abundance of Star Wars toys I received at the time.
Jesus was in need. His family was in need. They were the ones on that Christmas Eve who needed. I want to soften my heart to those who are in need by doing God’s word in Deuteronomy and opening my hand to help those in need have enough. I hope you do the same. Whether it’s a neighbor on your street, a friend of the family, or a need listed in this Global Voice, let’s make room for Jesus and meet his need.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
God bless you this Christmas season and may he meet all of your needs, giving you enough, and if you have more, may he give you his heart to share.