you were a slave

Today's devotion from Deuteronomy 24 & 25.

Over the course of the last several readings we've the emphasis on restoration, provision, protection, and integrity in interactions, but in the conclusion of chapter 24 we see a phrase repeated a few times that is revealing. God wants them to act out of the memory of their time in bondage. In the case of the Israelites, they should remember their time of need, and extend help when they have experienced the blessing and provision of God.

But what is funny to me is that this not a command to establish soup kitchens or clothes closets. God doesn't command the people to create charitable organizations. Instead, His plan is that people will have opportunities to provide for their families for themselves because the goal, going back to our reading from a few days ago, is not solely preservation, but restoration.

Do you see what God is saying? Restore collateral as soon as possible, and don't take as collateral something that would create an excessive burden on someone's ability to provide for themselves or their family. Don't oppress a hired servant, but give him his wages quickly. Don't over harvest, but leave some for the poor and needy. This isn't about handouts. God wants His people restored to their place within the community.

This doesn't mean that you should stop serving in shelters or benevolent ministries. However it does put the responsibility on our shoulders to seek to do more than give people handouts. Handouts are easy. It's quick and painless to give a dollar to a beggar. It's much more uncomfortable to sit with him over a meal. Instead, we should seek opportunities to restore people to their place within the community.

In this, it's hard for us to relate. We weren't bound in Egypt. We are not Israel. We are not primarily agriculturalists. However, we were once slaves, and God has miraculously freed us. How should we then be motivated by our former slavery? We should make disciples that have experienced the relief of having their shackles loosened. Are you working to restore others or simply to get ahead?