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Don’t look now, but a debate rages in the world on who is responsible for poor people being poor. Some say people are poor because they loaf instead of working. Some say poverty programs keep people poor instead of pushing them to work. That debate will not end soon. Yet the Bible teaches us how we should treat the poor—both in our neighborhoods and around the world. One text is in Deuteronomy 15. Moses tells his people, “If there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the LORD, you will be considered guilty of sin. Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do.” These instructions are primarily for people living under the Old Covenant. But the principle of showing mercy to the poor is unchanging in every generation. Jesus not only showed His concern for the poor, but in Matthew 25, we see His criteria for judging the nations when He returns. He said the way we treat His poor and needy brothers and sisters would be the standard He would use to judge. Of course salvation is free, but confirmation comes from obeying Him, and our treatment of the poor should be at or near the top of the list.

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