There’s a Catch: Promise or Admonition?
All my opinions related to Scripture carry a standard disclaimer, whether stated explicitly or not.1
Deuteronomy 15:4 But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess
This kind of language at first reminds me of the kind of passage that might be received as a promise by God. Perhaps during a time of financial struggle, one might look at a passage like this for encouragement. “Look!” One might say, “God says there will be no poor people.” I admit that I like hearing that. Imagine, no one being poor! God will supernaturally arrange our lives so that none of us will be poor. Although that does not seem to align itself with our present reality, at first hearing, it sounds good, and I wish it were “now” instead of some future “then”.
Now the clash: how can there be rich people unless there are poor people? What happens when no one is poor? Here in the west, we are comfortable with the idea that all of us are self made and those who work harder, more clever, should have more stuff. If I go to school and get advanced degrees, I should have a less strenuous job and be paid more than others.
Looking at this passage as a promise when we are in financial stress is different than looking at it as a general statement about the way things are supposed to be for everyone.
The adjacent passages apply a context to Deut. 15:4. God is talking about the Sabbath Year — everyone is admonished to forgive debts in the 7th year. The reason there are to be no poor is because God wants His people to be generous — not because He will supernaturally bestow wealth. Unless generosity is often the result of God’s supernatural touch on hearts.
How often are God’s blessings contingent? Not contingent upon my good works to earn His favor. Rather, contingent upon another person’s obedience? contingent on some wonderful purpose God has in mind? I am not lumping salvation or other graces together here with wealth. I am only exploring this passage in which God describes the way the culture, the society of His people, should work. People should obey God. When they obey, they treat each other better. They do not lord it over each other, they are generous in times of need. They carry one another’s burdens. They do not accumulate wealth to the detriment of others. I.e., you do not have to be poor in order for me to be rich. The result: perhaps no one is super wealthy and everyone has what is needed to live in peace without fear and worry?
If so, then the blessings of God may sometimes flow through the practical, everyday, behavior of His followers. I have further thoughts about contingencies that I’ll articulate in another article.
Disclaimer: When I run across verses that cause lots of thoughts to fire off, I like to write about them in order to explore them. It’s therapeutic to think aloud. I feel that’s a good way to experience the Spirit’s encouragement. So, while it is not allowed to totally fabricate interpretations, I think it is fair to follow the trail of the delightful thoughts.
So, these are my thoughts/opinions — not research. They are not presented, or shared, as what I believe the Bible teaches. Rather, they are the trail my heart followed.↩