Bible Insights

How Can We Help the Poor?

Deuteronomy Instructs Us to Help Foreigners, Orphans, and Widows

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds God’s people that when they’re harvesting a field to not pick it clean, to leave some of the produce for others. This includes foreigners, orphans, and widows (Deuteronomy 24:19).

Help Foreigners Orphans and Widows

Moses’s words reiterate the same command that we read twice in the book of Leviticus (Leviticus 19:9-10 and Leviticus 23:22). It’s good for Moses to remind the people of this command.

They’ve been in the desert for forty years and not planted or harvested.

Soon that will change. He’s telling them their harvest won’t just be for them, but it’s also to help poor people, specifically to help foreigners, orphans, and widows.

Ruth Gleans Grain

Let’s fast forward a few centuries to Ruth and her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth and Naomi are both widows. Ruth is also a foreigner. When they return to Israel, they’re poor. Dirt poor.

Aside from each other, they have no family. They have no means for support. They have no money. What do they do?

Ruth goes out in the fields to glean grain, to pick up what the harvesters left behind or overlooked.

This wouldn’t have been possible had the landowners not followed Moses’s command to leave some of the harvest behind for the foreigners, orphans, and widows so they can glean.

Even though this is an act of generosity on the part of the farmers, notice that Ruth does need to work to get her free food. She must glean grain from the field, working and sweating behind the day laborers.

For Ruth and Naomi, their story ends happily. Ruth gets married again and this time she has a child. Ruth’s husband also takes care of his mother-in-law, Naomi. They no longer need to worry about their day-to-day survival.

But not all poor people are so fortunate. They must continue to glean from the fields and rely on the generosity of others.

How Can We Apply This Principle Today?

Today, few of us are farmers to leave food in the fields for people to glean. Yet that does not remove the responsibility from us to help the foreigners, orphans, and widows who are destitute and have no food. What can we do to help them?

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 22-24, and today’s post is on Deuteronomy 24:19.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

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2 replies on “How Can We Help the Poor?”

Prabhakara, yes, I certainly get that. For me the post is more philosophical than practical, yet I must continually keep the plight of the poor in mind. Thanks for the reminder!

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