Poverty Prevention: Three Commands God Gave Israel

…there should be no poor among you,  for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today.  -Deuteronomy 15:4

Many see the Old Testament law as a nitpicky list of don’ts birthed from a primitive society. However, if one delves deeper into the context of ancient times, he will see a social structure promoting purity and promising overwhelming blessing. There are hundreds of decrees outlined for the good of God’s people, but as I was reading Leviticus and Deuteronomy the other day, three God-given commands caught my eye.

  1. 1. Every seven years, Israelites canceled debts owed to their brothers. -Deuteronomy 15:1-6
    Imagine America’s relief if that law was in effect in our nation today! This command had obvious freeing benefits to those financially bound.
  2. 2. Every 50th year (the year of Jubilee), Israel freed slaves and all properties reverted back to the original owner. -Leviticus 25:8-13
    This protected people who had lost their inheritance or sold themselves into slavery.
  3. 3. During harvest time, leftover sheaves were left ungleaned in order that foreigners, orphans, and widows could gather. -Deuteronomy 24:19, Leviticus 19:9,10
    We see this demonstrated in the book of Ruth when Ruth gleans Boaz’ field. Without this law in place, Ruth and Naomi likely would have starved to death as they were widows and Ruth was a foreigner with little money.

Through commands like these, God created a system free from poverty. This system, as stated many times throughout the Old Testament, was contingent on obedience. When disobedience occurred, the system became unbalanced. Unfortunately, we witness this occurrence many times in the Bible. In fact, a constant theme of Christianity in general is man straying from God’s original intent, thus creating his own flawed system.

Still, I can’t help but think what the world would look like had Israel been a completely obedient nation. Is it even possible for a contextually appropriate equivalent to develop in modern times?

What would America look like if we used simple commands like the three above to serve those in need?

Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.  -Deuteronomy 15:11