Redeeming the Poor (Leviticus 25:35-55)

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Leviticus 25 is a profound chapter. The Jubilee law indeed “is probably the most radical social and economic idea in all the Bible.”1 And it is so because it is the most radical spiritual idea in the entire Bible—because it is rooted in redemption.

Those who have been redeemed are called to live redemptively. By the power of the gospel, we are to live and to speak in such a Christ-centred way that we relieve the burdens of others who need to be freed, not only from the guilt of their sin, but also from the various burdens that attend living in a sin-cursed world. One of those curses is poverty. In fact, this is a major theme of Leviticus 25.

Without repeating an inordinate amount from the last two studies, let me remind you that the Lord was here instructing His people concerning their requirement to live redemptively. They were to live in the light of their own redemption from Egypt. This was, in many ways, the greatest and most repeated theme in the Old Testament. It was the pivotal event in Israel’s history, for it was by the Exodus that Israel was formed as a nation and declared quite evidently to be “the son of God” (Exodus 4:22; Hosea 11:1). It was for this reason that Israel was to live continually cognisant of God’s great salvation, and such a mindset would influence how they lived; that is, as servants of God (vv. 38, 42, 55). They were converted and called to serve God by redemptive living. And so are we.

If we have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb then our lives are to be “redemptive.” Specifically, we are to intentionally seek to bring relief and release to those who have been enslaved in various ways because of sin. And, of course, the means of any and all true redemption is the gospel. Our experience of the grace of God in His gospel is to overflow into an expression of His gracious redemption towards others. As Rushdoony has noted, “a truly charitable society is rooted in God’s mercy and grace.”2

Previously, we looked at this matter of redemptive living in a relational and spiritual way. In this study, we will do so again but with an additional element; namely, we are to be redemptive economically. The Christian has a God-given responsibility, in particular contexts, to redeem the poor. This responsibility is a command and a constraint (2 Corinthians 5) and is constructive.

This chapter has huge implications for the Christian. In fact, I am contemplating writing a small “handbook” outlining several of its very relevant and practical principles. But one of its primary redemptive themes is the Christian’s responsibility to the poor. In order for us to more faithfully and fruitfully fulfil our responsibility, we need an understanding of several related issues. We will attempt to gain this understanding under two major headings with several subsections.

The Relief of the Poor

Verses 35-43 highlight’s the believer’s responsibility to relieve the poor.

If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave. As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. And then he shall depart from you—he and his children with him—and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers. For they are My servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves. You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God.

(Leviticus 25:35-43)

This is a huge subject, which can be addressed from so many angles. In recent years, much has been written from a biblical and specifically Christian perspective concerning helping the poor as well as plans to help alleviate poverty.

It is encouraging that the church is beginning to take economics seriously and to practically engage in applying redemptive truth to the economic issues of helping those who are suffering from abject poverty.

It is wonderfully encouraging that the church is growing in its understanding that the gospel affects our worldview and therefore there is no sphere that is outside of God’s revealed law. We are moving away from our spiritual ghettos and retreatist subcultures and are applying God’s Word more comprehensively. In other words, God’s kingdom is advancing and His will is increasingly being done on earth as it is in heaven . The tragic results of the years designated “The Great Reversal” (1900-1930), in which the church moved away from social action as it retreated to individualistic pietism, has given way to a healthy renewal of interest in applying the gospel in a more comprehensive way.

Though there is much that we are still not getting right; and though sometimes the church is guilty of a wrong approach to social issues, nevertheless we are blessed to live in a day when Christians are becoming more holistic in their love for each other and for unbelieving neighbours.

In this study, I plan to touch on some of these aspects, and I trust at the least plant a seed that will over time germinate in a deeper and more biblical understanding of, not only what it means to redeem the poor, but practically how we can actually do so.

We saw previously that the children of Israel were to have compassion on those who found themselves vulnerably impoverished. This was to take place, by command of God, particularly in the Year of Jubilee. However, there remained the constant opportunity to relieve the poor of their debt at any time. And we know from Deuteronomy 15 that every sabbatical year was also a commanded time to forgive debts, thus giving some poverty relief.

There are a number of economic issues revealed here. We will consider one of the major ones (economic development and land reform) in our next study in Leviticus, but for now let’s look at how we can be used by the Lord to help relieve the burdens of the poor.

The Reality of Poverty

One does not need to look far to see that poverty is a large and looming reality in our world. In 2008, the World Bank highlighted that about 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 (US) a day with another billion living on less than $1 a day. Contrast that with the average US citizen, who lives on about $90 a day. Travel to almost any place in Africa or Asia and it becomes very clear that there is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots (which someone has said are actually, in many cases, the have-nothings).

Such poverty is not restricted to those outside of the covenant community, but includes believers as well. Being poorer than others is a fact of life, but sadly so is abject poverty.

Poverty is Painful

Of course, being poor is often subjective. However, the Hebrew word behind “poverty” in v. 35 means “his hand shakes,” which implies that such an individual is unable to support himself. This describes many in our own society.

Perhaps we get a glimpse of what it means to be truly poor by Paul’s admonition in 1 Timothy 6:7-9. There, Paul says that we should be content with food and clothing and then immediately contrasts this contentment with “those who desire to be rich.” It seems as if, by implication, we can define being rich as having more than food and clothing. Thus, poverty would be having less than the daily necessities of life. And so while poverty—being poor—is somewhat subjective, most of us would not qualify for being biblically categorised as poor. Most of us have food in our cupboard. But some do not, and we have a responsibility to them.

Our text indicates that the poor for whom God’s people were responsible were those who had fallen on such hard times that they could not support themselves. For whatever reason, they were in financial difficulty and were in need of assistance. They needed a place to stay. They needed someone to care for them. They needed to be fed. And yes, they were a part of the covenant community. Believers can find themselves in need. That is a reality. Don’t listen to the prosperity preachers: Christians can find themselves economically impoverished.

I have been poorer than I am now. My wife has often joked that the only furnished room in our first apartment was the bathroom. I have scratched around in the couch for coins before. But I have never known poverty. I have never known what it was like to be unable to support myself or my family. But many have, and such realities are indescribably painful.

Such poverty is painful. It is today, and it was in the days of Moses. God then expected His people to do something about it. He still does.

Poverty is Continual

Both Moses and Jesus revealed to us that the poor will always be with us (Deuteronomy 15:11; Matthew 26:11). This was not only true for the unbeliever but for believers as well. Sometimes people are confused about this, especially in the light of Deuteronomy 15:1-6. But it is clear from vv. 7-11 that the promise of the complete alleviation of poverty in the Promised Land was conditional. Let me explain.

As we will see in a future study of Leviticus 26, the Lord promised to bless the nation of Israel if they were covenantally faithful. He would bless them with prosperity. But it must be noted that this was a corporate promise rather than an individual one. In other words, God did promise economic (and other) blessings to His people as a group in return for nationwide obedience, but He never promised that each individual member of the group would experience equal prosperity. And to one with a kingdom mentality this was fine.

It is important for us to grasp this, because there is much confusion and corresponding falsehood which is being disseminated today about God’s promise of prosperity. And, by the way, as we will see in our next study, conservative Bible expositors are often as guilty of falsehood in their denying of the promises of prosperity as false prosperity teachers are in overstating them.

What’s the Point?

The point that I wish to emphasise is that, until the Lord Jesus Christ returns, the church will always be confronted with the reality of poverty and with the corresponding privilege to respond to it redemptively. Yes, we will encounter poverty on the street corners, but we will also encounter it within our congregation. Economic need is part and parcel of church life (e.g. Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35; Galatians 2:10; etc.). And this reality of poverty to some degree becomes our responsibility to relieve.

The Reasons for Poverty

There are a plethora of reasons for poverty. It is simplistic to categorise all poverty as the result of bad decisions and poor education, or as resulting from poor stewardship or laziness. In point of fact, much poverty is simply the result of providence—God’s providence. “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 8:18; cf. Proverbs 22:2).

Fundamentally, the reason that there is poverty is sin. Sin has broken relationships between man and God and between people. It has broken the wholeness of us as individuals and has marred relationship with creation in general. One of the results of such brokenness is poverty.

Poverty can arise as the result of sinful slothfulness (Proverbs 6:6-11). It can result from foolish decisions (e.g. get rich quick schemes; greed; etc.). Sometimes it is the result of situations out of one’s control: natural disasters and the sins of others. It is not true that we all have opportunity for education, and that anyone can therefore make a good living. One can be very diligent and yet disasters outside of his control can wipe away his ability to move forward.

It is quite possible for one’s self-worth to be in the cellar because of the way they are raised, and this may well affect their ability to succeed.

Someone else’s sin can also ruin you. I recently counselled someone who told me of how the sin of someone else had almost wiped out his life savings. The recent Fidentia money-laundering corruption scandal is but one public example of how the sin of one person can financially impact others.

If we will help to relieve the poor, we need to get a good handle on the reason for their poverty. It is easy offer temporary relief, but long term relief requires understanding the root of their problem.

In summary, let me simply but soberly observe that we need to be careful of making sweeping judgements and we should often reflect on God’s providence as to whether we have much or little. In all cases, we get more than we deserve.

It should be noted that, in this law, there is no specific reason stated for the individual’s poverty. That does not mean that the reason is unimportant to ascertain, but rather that our hearts are to be tender and we are to be willing to help.

Nevertheless, the reason that we need to understand the cause of another’s poverty is not so that we can decide whether to help, but rather to help us to know how to truly help them. This brings us to our next point.

The Response to Poverty

In a word, the law of the Jubilee, like all the other laws revealed in Leviticus, was for the purpose of driving home the truth that God’s people were to be holy. They were to be holy in how they sacrificed, in how they worshipped, in their diet, and in their hygiene. But they were also to be holy in how they viewed “their” land. That is, they were to be holy in their “economics.”

The sabbatical principle (vv. 1-7) that undergirds this chapter teaches us that these property and poverty issues were spiritual issues that required a holy response. One could not be holy in the tabernacle but not in the marketplace.

Stewardship

Verse 23 makes it clear that these laws of Jubilee were all about stewardship of God’s property. Since it belonged to God it was to be used in a manner that pleased Him. One way in which the management of His resources pleases Him is by His people sharing with those in need. This is clearly revealed here in vv. 35-38.

If God’s people expected God to mercifully respond to their worship, it was expected that they respond with mercy to others. Let me put it this way: Their stewardship of what God had given to them was to flow from the reality that God had forgiven them.

As we share what God has entrusted to us with those who are in need, we are in effect freeing (relieving) them of some degree of economic bondage.

The Christian does indeed have a responsibility to be redemptive towards the poor, with particular reference to his fellow believer (Galatians 6:10). And as we will now flesh out, our responsibility to respond is a command, a constraint (2 Corinthians 5) and is constructive.

Our Responsibility is a Command

This is in many ways a given, yet it needs to be stressed that Christians are commanded to help the poor. Our text reveals this: “If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him.” Other Scriptures make this point as well (Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 15:7-8; 24:14-15; Proverbs 14:21; 21:13; 29:7; 31:1; Galatians 2:10). This is also included in the overall exhortation to love our neighbour as ourselves (Leviticus 19:38; see Luke 10:25-37).

We are called by God to offer relief to those who are in need. We are called to respond to dire situations with a view to stopping the bleeding of a needy situation.

But note that we often need this commandment. We need the exhortation to care. We see this in the words “like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.” That is an interesting statement. It is as if the Lord was making the point that there was a tendency to treat a brother with less affection and compassion than a stranger. Perhaps one would feel that such poverty would hurt the family name and so a measure of embarrassment existed. But God would have none of it. A brother in need was a brother who needed your help.

It is often sadly true that the church will love those on the outside more than those on the inside. But God specifically commands the church to “do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). This point needs to be fleshed out a bit.

We are surrounded by those in need, but our resources are finite—limited—and therefore we are restricted in what we can do to relieve the poor. The Galatians text helps us, for it clearly prioritises where our charity begins. It begins in the family of God.

It should be noted that in 1 Timothy 5 Paul addresses a believer’s responsibility to meet his physical/legal family’s needs. Normally, charity does begin in the home. But there are also times in which it begins in the church. We are to do good to all men but especially to those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The blood of Christ is thicker than amniotic fluid.

There is much talk in the church today about “social justice,” and many believers are being motivated to reach out to help the downtrodden in society. But we need to learn, in the words of others, that not every opportunity is our responsibility, and not every possibility is an “ought.”3 Every “can” must not become an “ought.” Our first priority is the body of Christ, and only then is it those outside of the covenant family. (This is clearly seen in vv. 39-46.)

Our Responsibility is a Constraint

Our response to the needs of others must be motivated by the love of Christ. This underlies our entire passage. Those who were constrained by the knowledge that they had been graciously redeemed from slavery in Egypt were to show similar Godlike compassion towards others. In the words of Paul, they were to be constrained by the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14-18).

The apostle John put it this way: “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

The Lord said the same thing through Moses:

If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,” and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you. You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand.

(Deuteronomy 15:7-10)

Any Time is the Right Time

Before moving on, a word must be said here about timing and helping. Let me explain.

In the case of Deuteronomy 15, it is evident that each Sabbatical year was to be a time of release. Therefore, all debts were cancelled between creditor and debtor. This is what Moses meant when he said that they should not be lending to help another with one eye on their need and the other on the calendar. Rather, the love of God should constrain them to help even, though they realised that they would not be getting all that they loaned returned to them. In other words, the time to relieve an immediate need is always right.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 19:17, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what he has given.” We learn here that we should not loan what we are not willing to lose. But if it is loaned to the Lord then you won’t lose it!

It would seem that Paul picked up on this principle when he wrote similar words to Deuteronomy 15 in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. In this passage, Paul once again highlights the need for our giving to be from the heart. It is to be cheerfully free of external restraint. Such grace giving is compelled by, well, grace!

In the case of the offering that Paul was dealing with in 2 Corinthians, the same issue applied. He had already indicated in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 that times were tough economically, and yet it was still the right time to give. It would seem that the Corinthian church had made a promise to give towards the needs of the suffering church in Jerusalem but were procrastinating in carrying it out. Paul’s exhortation, like that of Moses, was there is no time like the present. The Corinthians should open their hand and trust the Lord to fill it when necessary. (A wonderful, positive illustration of this attitude and principle can be seen in Acts 11:26-30.)

When it comes to practically and helpfully relieving the needs of the poor (brethren) there are several factors to consider. Let’s look at these.

Our Responsibility is Constructive

In taking seriously our commanded response to help the poor we need to be careful that we are being constructive as we do so. This is vital to understand, for often so much “poverty relief” is in the end destructive.

I am indebted for some important lessons about this in the book When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.4 These two Christian brothers make the point that, when it comes to helping the poor, we need to think along three major lines: relief, rehabilitation and development.

They describe the rudimentary step of relief as an immediate measure to stop the bleeding, while realising that much more needs to be done in order to more fully help the needy person. Relief in this sense is an immediate response to address urgent suffering. You could apply this to someone who is starving to death, is about to be destroyed by a loan shark, or who is homeless without shoes or a coat in the dead of winter. In such situations, we reach out immediately to address the immediate suffering. But if we stop there, we have done nothing to address the reason for their situation. We must instead take the necessary steps in order to rehabilitate them for a better, less dependent future.

For example, let us assume that a brother is starving and homeless because of a sinful pattern, or lack of self-control or skills in the workplace. To truly help them will require rehabilitating them and helping them to develop the skills, behaviours and thought patterns necessary to escape the stranglehold of poverty. And the church is indeed poised to do this! After all, the gospel transforms destructive patterns of behaviour and replaces them into constructive ones (Colossians 3:4-10; etc.). In other words, handouts in the end are often copouts. I think our text alludes to this.

You will note that the passage speaks of lending to a brother in need. When you do so, you are not to charge usury (interest that bites because of its severity). Instead, it must be an interest-free loan, and the implication is that it is to be paid back. Such aid to the needy is a wonderful means toward protecting and respecting their dignity. It is a means to train the person in need that labour is required or skills must be developed in order to make it.

The Bible certainly makes allowance for outright gifts, but don’t miss this important economic tool to teach someone the dominion mandate. A loan can indeed prove to be an economic pedagogical tool.

In summary, our help is to be holy, it is to be from the heart, and it is not to harm.

The Redemption of the Poor

Verses 44-55 detail the redemption of the poor. The principle is that the poor need more than relief; they need redemption.

And as for your male and female slaves whom you may have—from the nations that are around you, from them you may buy male and female slaves. Moreover you may buy the children of the strangers who dwell among you, and their families who are with you, which they beget in your land; and they shall become your property. And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor.

Now if a sojourner or stranger close to you becomes rich, and one of your brethren who dwells by him becomes poor, and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner close to you, or to a member of the stranger’s family, after he is sold he may be redeemed again. One of his brothers may redeem him;’or his uncle or his uncle’s son may redeem him; or anyone who is near of kin to him in his family may redeem him; or if he is able he may redeem himself. Thus he shall reckon with him who bought him: The price of his release shall be according to the number of years, from the year that he was sold to him until the Year of Jubilee; it shall be according to the time of a hired servant for him. If there are still many years remaining, according to them he shall repay the price of his redemption from the money with which he was bought. And if there remain but a few years until the Year of Jubilee, then he shall reckon with him, and according to his years he shall repay him the price of his redemption. He shall be with him as a yearly hired servant, and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight. And if he is not redeemed in these years, then he shall be released in the Year of Jubilee—he and his children with him. For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

(Leviticus 25:44-55)

In His sovereignty, God allowed His people to face economic hardship, even to the point of their becoming so impoverished that they would be forced to sell their land and even themselves into slavery (that is, into a form of indentured servanthood). But God also provided a means for an individual to be redeemed from such a malady: the kinsman redeemer.

One thing to keep in mind is that these land laws were unique to Israel as a means to preserve the nation through whom Messiah would one day come. The Jubilee laws were intended to prevent God’s people from becoming obsessed with the land so that they might rather be consumed with the coming Lord. The Jubilee laws were intended to teach that the land was a means to God’s ultimate redemptive end of the gospel of Christ. Therefore we need to be careful of making a direct application of this passage to us today.

In other words, this passage is not a specific economic blueprint for how economies should be managed in our day. Rather, like God’s old covenant people, we are to help the poor because we are focused on the Lord and our motive is that they will be as well. Our poverty relief is to be gospel driven. It is to be salvifically redemptive. Our goal in poverty relief, in other words, must be to serve Christ and to help others to know and to serve Him.

The Bible makes it very clear that we can only serve one Master: either the Lord or mammon. And no one perhaps knows this better than the greedy or the impoverished. After all, when you are living hand-to-mouth it is difficult to think about time for Bible study and ministry. And so, as we are practically committed to redeeming the poor (brothers), they will be freed to serve the Lord. The kingdom of God is enriched as it is expanded.

Now, having looked at some practical issues of poverty relief, what will help us to consistently do so—long after this study is over?

Our Relationship with the Poor

The first thing to consider when faced with an opportunity to help the poor is our relationship with them. This is basic, but essential.

They are our brothers and sisters. I am speaking primarily, of course, about believers who are in need. Since we are a household, we should be concerned about everyone in the family. The Bible does not promote equality of income; it is not a communist manifesto. The Bible does teach issues of private ownership and profit making. Yet it also teaches that the reason for our profitability is so that we will have sufficient to share with others (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Robert North discusses the lessons a Christian may learn from this chapter. One of those is the personal virtue to love your neighbour as yourself. He says that this is “the all-embracing moral principle that inspires the jubilee legislation.”5 If we love our neighbour then we will practically demonstrate this. And one way is by meeting his material needs.

Again, this principle of being in communion with one another is fundamental to the mater of helping those in need (see Galatians 6:10; Acts 11; 2 Corinthians 8—9; Philippians 4).

But I must say a word about those outside of the faith: They, like us, are also made in the image of God and therefore we need to consider them rather than merely condemning them. Verses 44-46 indicate that the Hebrews employed those outside of the covenant, and we know from other Scriptures that they were responsible to treat them with justice.

Our Recollection of being Poor

This point has been made over and over: If we will redeem the poor, then we need to constantly remember that “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”

It is interesting that the Jubilee served to remind everyone of God’s grace—both the haves and the have-nots. In the words of Vasholz, “The Jubilee is recognition of social equality. During that year, the whole nation becomes a nation of gleaners. Like the have-nots, all Israel survives solely by the benevolence of the Lord.”6 Such a recollection perhaps was a means to softening the hearts of the Israelites to their fellow believers who were in need. Having tasted something of a hand-to-mouth experience, they were humbled to identify with those who seemed to be in this continual state. And such humility would be practically manifested in generosity.

When I was in high school, my brother and I used to take the summer break in the US and use it as an opportunity to make money by painting houses. We found an interesting contrast between painting the houses of elderly wealthy people and painting the houses of their children. In most cases, the elderly wealthy, having worked hard for their wealth, understood just treatment and a fair wage. By contrast, their children, who grew up surrounded by wealth, had far less concept of these matters. Those who remembered their own struggles were far more understanding.

Here is the point: God’s saving grace in your life obligates you to meet the needs of brothers and sisters with whom you are connected (see Romans 15:25-27). The gospel is to loom large in every sphere of life. And when it does, it affects everything that we do and every relationship that we have—including our relationship with the poor (see James 2).

Our Redeemer who became Poor

Clearly, one of the aims of this law was to practically equip the congregation to love their disenfranchised neighbour as themselves. As the text reveals, the neighbour was often a family member. Such a family member required a kinsman to redeem them from indebtedness, financial bondage and slavery.

Thankfully, our Kinsman Redeemer did just that. The words of 2 Corinthians 8:9 say it all: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich yet for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might become rich.”

The context of this verse is important. Paul was collecting an offering from the churches in this region for the impoverished believers in Jerusalem. He rooted his appeal for an offering in the gospel. Poverty relief was rooted in redemption. This is how it should always be.

We are to give because God gave His Son, who gave Himself. And if the Father and the Son love us that much, then we can be sure that they will care for us as we reach out and sacrifice to pay the price to relieve some need of the poor amongst us. As Paul wrote elsewhere,

Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 4:15-19)

In closing, let me make an essential point (which will be fleshed out in our next study): If we will truly redeem the poor—and here I am speaking primarily of those who are outside of the faith (for now)—we can only do so through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Poverty exists because of a breakdown in relationships: with God, with others, with oneself and with the wider creation. But the Lord Jesus Christ in His redemptive work is able to reconcile all things to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:14-18). He is busy doing so today. And the foundation for this restoration is His gospel. Have you been redeemed?

The call to relieve the poor can only be fulfilled by obedience to the Great Commission. As men and women, boys and girls are born again, they are in a position to live all of life to the glory of God—including in the area of labour and production. And so, with God-lovers increasing, though there will always be the poor amongst us, nevertheless their numbers will decrease—both for their good and to the glory of God because of the gospel of Christ.

For His sake, let us therefore work to redeem the poor.

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Derek Tidball, The Message of Leviticus: Free to Be Holy (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005), 299.
  2. Rousas John Rushdoony, Leviticus: Commentaries on the Pentateuch (Vallecito: Ross House Books, 2005), ??.
  3. Kevin de Young and Greg Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom and the Great Commission (Wheaton: Crossway Books: 2011).
  4. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Poverty without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009).
  5. Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus: The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 323-34.
  6. Robert I. Vasholz, Leviticus: A Mentor Commentary (Ross-shire: Mentor, 2007), 328.