(Today is Easter, yet our passages do not have much reflection on Jesus’ rising from the dead. )
Today, I want to focus on two interesting statements in Deuteronomy 15. Following the mandate to forgive all debts after 7 years in Israel, the people are encouraged with these words: “However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, He will richly bless you” (v. 4). God will bless Israel so much that living in poverty should be unthinkable. However, we are told that this is not how things will turn out: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (v. 11) God declares poverty ought not exist, but knows it will, so Israel still must be generous to the poor. Given this contrast, something other than scarcity will be the biggest reason for Israel’s poverty; people will steward their resources inappropriately, families will fail to educate their children, and others will misuse their neighbor. God indicates in these two simple statements that poverty is a complicated matter, and that regardless, God’s people Israel are to have compassion for the poor. We do well to keep in mind both our call to care for the impoverished today and to remember that even today reasons for people’s poverty are not simple or merely the result of limited resources. Poverty exists because sin exists.