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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, June 26, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Deuteronomy 15:7–11          

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.” (NRSV)

Think about the last time you did a favor for someone. Did you offer help without a second thought? Or did you maybe take a mental note of what you did and expect that person to repay you in the future? I’m pretty sure I’ve done both, but I know the former is the right and just thing to do.

Now think about when you freely give of yourself to someone in need whom you don’t know. In my field of work, I often get asked, “What’s the best way to help someone in need? How do I know I’m really helping if I give something, especially money?”

At a panel event, I heard the same question asked. The professional who responded said, “To really help, you have to first recognize the dignity and humanity of the person you’re encountering. Then, if you do decide to give a monetary donation, you have to be at peace with whatever the person uses the money for. That is a gift of agency and self-autonomy. You are giving that person the opportunity to honor their own needs without judgment.”

In today’s scripture, we are reminded to not be “hardhearted or tightfisted,” but instead “be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.” How open-hearted can we be when our hands are (metaphorically) tightfisted? When we give with restriction or expectation, we are limiting how much love we give. When we live with open hands, we are living with open hearts and minds and reaching out much farther than we can with a closed fist.

God of selfless love, guide us to extend our hands and our lives to those in need. Remind us to love without expectation and to live with hearts full of humble generosity. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens Harris, Director, Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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