In 2009, Los Angeles County stopped charging families for the costs of their children’s incarceration. Though no new fees were charged, those with unpaid fees from before the change in policy were still required to settle their debt. Then in 2018 the county canceled all outstanding financial obligations.
For some families, canceling the debt aided greatly in their struggle to survive; no longer having liens on their property or wages being garnished meant they were better able to put food on the table. It was for this kind of hardship that the Lord called for debts to be forgiven every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:2). He didn’t want people to be crippled forever under this burden.
Because the Israelites were forbidden to charge interest on a loan to fellow Israelites (Exodus 22:25), their motives for lending to a neighbor weren’t to make a profit, but rather to help those who were enduring hard times, perhaps due to a bad harvest. Debts were to be freely forgiven every seven years. As a result, there would be less poverty among them as a people group (Deuteronomy 15:4).
Today, believers in Jesus aren’t bound by these laws. But God might occasionally prompt us to forgive a debt so those who’ve been struggling can get back on their feet and begin afresh as contributing members of society. When we show such mercy and generosity to others, we lift up God’s character and give people hope.
In the 1994 fictional movie Forrest Gump, Forrest becomes famous for running. What began as a jog “to the end of the road” continued for three years, two months, fourteen days, and sixteen hours. Each time he arrived at his destination, he set another one and continued to run, zig-zagging across the United States, until one day when he no longer felt like it. “Feeling like it” was the way his running began. Forrest says, “That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run.”
In contrast to Forrest’s seemingly whimsical running, the apostle Paul asks his readers to follow his example and “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). Like disciplined athletes, our running—the way we live our lives—might mean saying no to some of our pleasures. Being willing to forgo our rights might help us reach others with the good news of our rescue from sin and death.
With our hearts and minds trained on the goal of inviting others to run the race alongside us, we are also assured of the ultimate prize—eternal fellowship with God. The victor’s crown God bestows will last forever; we win it by running our lives with the aim of making Him known while relying on His strength to do so. What a reason to run!
City health workers in San Francisco are taking medical care to the streets to supply the homeless who are suffering from opioid addiction with medicine to treat their addiction. The program began in response to the rising number of homeless who are injecting. Customarily, doctors wait for patients to come to a clinic. By taking medical care to the afflicted instead, patients don’t have to overcome the challenges of transportation or needing to remember the appointment.
The health workers’ willingness to go to those in need of care reminds me of the way Jesus has come to us in our need. In His ministry, Jesus sought out those who the religious elite were quick to ignore: He ate with “sinners and tax collectors” (v. 16). When asked why He would do that, Jesus replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (v. 17). He went on to say that His intention was to call sinners, not the righteous, into relationship with Him.
When we realize that we’re all “sick” and in need of a doctor (Romans 3:10), we can better appreciate Jesus’s willingness to eat with the “sinners and tax collectors”—us. In turn, like the health care workers in San Francisco, Jesus appointed us as His “street team” to take His saving message to others in need.
In the early 1900s, the Packard Motor Car Company generated a slogan to entice buyers. “Ask the man who owns one” became a powerful tagline, one that contributed to the company’s reputation as manufacturing the dominant luxury vehicle in that era. What Packard seemed to understand is that personal testimony is compelling to the hearer: a friend’s satisfaction with a product is a powerful endorsement.
Sharing with others our personal experiences of God’s goodness to us also makes an impact. God invites us to not only declare our gratitude and joy not only to Him but also to those around us (Psalm 66:1). The psalmist eagerly shared in his song the forgiveness God granted him when he turned from his wrongdoings (vv. 18–20).
God has done amazing works in the course of history, such as parting the waters of the Red Sea (v. 6). He also does amazing work in each of our personal lives: giving us hope in the midst of suffering, giving us the Holy Spirit to understand His Word, and providing for our daily needs. When we share with others our personal experiences of God’s work in our lives, we’re giving something of much greater value than an endorsement of a particular purchase—we’re acknowledging God’s goodness and encouraging one another along the journey of life.
I was as mischievous as any other child in my early years. I hid my misdeeds to avoid getting into trouble. Yet my mother usually found out what I had done. I recall being amazed at how quickly and accurately she knew about my antics. When I marveled and asked how she knew, she always replied, “I have eyes in the back of my head.” This, of course, led me to study her head whenever she’d turn her back—were the eyes invisible or merely cloaked by her red hair? As I grew, I gave up looking for evidence of her extra pair of eyes and realized I just wasn’t quite as sneaky as I had supposed. Her watchful gaze was evidence of her loving concern for her children.
As grateful as I am for my mother’s attentive care (despite being occasionally disappointed I hadn’t gotten away with something!), I’m even more grateful that God “sees all mankind” as He looks upon us from heaven (Psalm 33:13). He sees so much more than what we do; He sees our sadness, our delights, and our love for one another.
God sees our true character and always knows exactly what we need. With perfect vision, which even sees the inner workings of our hearts, He watches over those who love Him and put their hope in Him (v. 18). He is our attentive, loving Father.
As a sixty-two-year-old homeless military veteran, Steve made his way to a warm climate where sleeping outdoors was tolerable year-round. One evening, as he displayed his hand-drawn art—his attempt to earn some money—a young woman approached and offered him several slices of pizza. Steve gratefully accepted. Moments later, Steve shared his bounty with another hungry, homeless person. Almost immediately, the same young woman resurfaced with another plate of food, acknowledging that he had been generous with what he’d been given.
Steve’s story illustrates the principle found in Proverbs 11:25 that when we’re generous with others, we’re likely to experience generosity as well. We shouldn’t give with expectancy of receiving; rarely does our generosity return to us as quickly and obviously as it did for him. Rather, we give to help others in loving response to God’s instruction to do so (Philippians 2:4; 1 John 3:17). And when we do, God is pleased. While He’s under no obligation to refill our pocketbooks or bellies, He often finds a way to refresh us—sometimes materially, other times spiritually.
Steve shared his second plate of pizza too with a smile and open hands. Despite his lack of worldly possessions, he embodies what it means to live generously, willing to cheerfully share what we have with others instead of hoarding it for ourselves. As God leads and empowers us, may the same be said of us.
On the outskirts of Paris, as in other cities around the globe, people are coming to the aid of the homeless in their communities. Clothing, covered in waterproof bags, is hung on designated fences for those living on the streets to take according to their needs. The bags are labeled, “I’m not lost; I’m for you if you’re cold.” The effort not only warms those without shelter, but also teaches those in the community the importance of assisting the needy among them.
The Bible highlights the importance of caring for those who are poor too, instructing us to be “openhanded” toward them (Deuteronomy 15:11). We might be tempted to avert our eyes to the plight of the poor, holding tightly to our resources instead of sharing them. Yet God challenges us to recognize that we will always be surrounded by those who have needs and therefore to respond to them with generosity, not a “grudging heart” (v. 10). Jesus says that in giving to the poor we receive an enduring treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33).
Our generosity may not be recognized by anyone other than God. Yet when we give freely, we not only meet the needs of those around us but we also experience the joy God intends for us in providing for His people. Help us, Lord to have open eyes and open hands to supply the needs of those You put in our paths!