You shall surely give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because YHWH your God will bless you for this thing, in all your work, and in all that you put your hand to. Deuteronomy 15:10
Surely Give – God is very practical. He knows that we are not always motivated by the right kind of action, so He makes sure that we are reminded to be obedient even when we would be inclined otherwise. This verse talks about the behavior required by the Torah just prior to the Year of Jubilee. You know, of course, that in Jubilee all personal debts were to be forgiven. So, as the Year of Jubilee approached, those who were able to make loans were less inclined to do so since they would soon need to forgive the debtor. God says, “No you don’t.” The Torah instructs the lender to follow through with the required action regardless of the impending forgiveness. Furthermore, the Torah tells us to make the loan without regret or hesitation. Why? Because it is God’s desire for us to model His character, and God will not forget the act of unselfish obedience.
Just how important is this generous attitude among His people? Well, we get a clue by the use of the Hebrew verb nathan. The verb is used more than 2000 times. It generally means “to give, to place or to put.” The opening words of this verse in Hebrew are naton titen lo. You might not see it, but naton and titen are both derivations of the same word, nathan. Literally, the translation is “You shall givingly give to him.” The common way to put emphasis on an important thought in Hebrew is to double the word. That’s what happens here. God doesn’t say, “Give him the loan.” He says, “I am imploring you to give him the loan. Do it regardless of your feelings or concerns.” This is giving squared!
Today is a good day to hear this instruction. Our economic uncertainty is not beyond God’s hand. We are not to shirk our responsibility to care for others simply because it might not be expedient to do so. If our Year of Jubilee were just around the corner, God’s attitude toward generosity would not change. His compassion does not waiver according to the economic outlook. We encounter needy brothers and sisters and we have no excuse not to help them. After all, our well-being does not rest in the hands of the Department of Health and Welfare. It rests in the hands of the Almighty.
Does this mean that we should drain our bank accounts in the care of others? Are we to give until it hurts? Two things must be said. First, the Torah makes a careful distinction between ordinary business transactions (loans) and personal generosity on behalf of those in need. Business transactions always carry an expectation of obligation. Secondly, the purpose of personal generosity is not welfare! It is communal restoration. It is the deliberate effort on behalf of the ones who have assets to assist those who do not have assets in order that the one in need will be restored to a fully functional, participating, working member of the community. What the Torah prevents is the possibility that personal generosity will decline in years when the forgiveness of debt looms on the horizon. The emphasis is not on the obligation created by the debt. It is on the need to restore the deprived, not enable their condition.
Maybe God knows how to handle tough times better than we do. Maybe the solution we need to adopt is to do it His way each time. What do you think?
Topical Index: welfare, generosity, nathan, Year of Jubilee, Deuteronomy 15:10