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.”
When I was a university chaplain, a friend and I led a retreat on the Beatitudes for middle school girls. We used a multimedia presentation my college students made featuring the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song, “Teach Your Children Well.” A moving array of words and images of poverty, wealth, war, peace, children and animals reflected the Beatitudes. As we discussed Jesus’ instructions to care for the poor, a bright, shiny-faced girl raised her hand to ask, “Why should we help the poor? The Bible says the poor will always be with us.”
I was stunned. We had just experienced a powerful message and needed to act on it. Yet this youth dismissed caring for the poor because they will always be with us! Deuteronomy 5:11 didn’t enter my mind that day, but Jesus’ teachings and actions certainly did. If I had described today’s verse, I hope it would have convinced her. Since there will always be those who are impoverished among you, Scripture says, open your hand to care for them.
I love the image of opening our hands wide. Open hands suggest compassion, generosity, and a willingness to care that stems from love. Closed hands connote anger, defiance, and refusal to let go. They reflect fear: I must grip what I have because, if I let go, what will be left for me? When our heart slams shut, we clinch our hands and stuff them in our pockets. When we trust and find confidence in God’s abundance, we learn to live with open hands and hearts.
Whenever you struggle to care for the poor, what moves you to open your hand, mind, and heart to the poor and needy neighbor in your land?
God, help us accept the invitation of your Scripture and your Spirit to open ourselves to those around us who need our help. Amen.