The eighth commandment
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for 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.”
“If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee. Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and 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 ruthlessly but shall fear your God.”
Helping the poor in our day is typically a project accomplished “at a distance,” as it were. Advocates for the poor, such as John Perkins, realize that we cannot truly help the poor unless we develop relationships of love with them, and this can mean having them live with us or going to live among them.
The Law of God never wants us to forget that people, even sinners and the poor, are human beings, made in the image of God. As such, they are to be the objects of our love, not our indifference or scorn. We cannot love those we do not know, and we cannot know people with whom we do not associate. Even the poor have much to offer in the way of help and work, and the Law of God expects them to be willing to offer what they may. Thus the poor love those who love them, and both of them love God as He directs, following the wise counsel of His holy and righteous and good Law (Rom. 7.12).
This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to www.ailbe.org and click on our Book Store.