for the Poor
promote the assembling of the people for religious service, as well as to
provide for the poor, a second tithe of all the increase was required.
Concerning the first tithe, the Lord had declared, "I have given the
children of Levi all the tenth in Israel." Numbers 18:21. But
in regard to the second He commanded, "Thou shalt eat before the Lord
thy God, in the place which He shall choose to place His name there, the
tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of
thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy
God always." Deuteronomy 14:23, 29; 16:11-14. This tithe, or its
equivalent in money, they were for two years to bring to the place where
the sanctuary was established. After presenting a thank offering to God,
and a specified portion to the priest, the offerers were to use the
remainder for a religious feast, in which the Levite, the stranger, the
fatherless, and the widow should participate. Thus provision was made for
the thank offerings and feasts at the yearly festivals, and the people
were drawn to the society of the priests and Levites, that they might
receive instruction and encouragement in the service of God.
year, however, this second tithe was to be used at home, in entertaining
the Levite and the poor, as Moses said, "That they may eat within thy
gates, and be filled." Deuteronomy 26:12. This tithe would provide a
fund for the uses of charity and hospitality.
provision was made for the poor. There is nothing, after their recognition
of the claims of God, that more distinguishes the laws given by Moses than
the liberal, tender, and hospitable spirit enjoined toward the poor.
Although God had promised greatly to bless His people, it was not His
design that poverty should be wholly unknown among them. He declared that
the poor should never cease out of the land. There would ever be those
among His people who would call into exercise
their sympathy, tenderness,
and benevolence. Then, as now, persons were subject to misfortune,
sickness, and loss of property; yet so long as they followed the
instruction given by God, there were no beggars among them, neither any
who suffered for food.
The law of
God gave the poor a right to a certain portion of the produce of the soil.
When hungry, a man was at liberty to go to his neighbor's field or orchard
or vineyard, and eat of the grain or fruit to satisfy his hunger. It was
in accordance with this permission that the disciples of Jesus plucked and
ate of the standing grain as they passed through a field upon the Sabbath
gleanings of harvest field, orchard, and vineyard, belonged to the poor.
"When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field," said Moses,
"and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to
fetch it. . . . When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over
the boughs again. . . . When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard,
thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the
fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a
bondman in the land of Egypt." Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Leviticus 19:9,
year special provision was made for the poor. The sabbatical year, as it
was called, began at the end of the harvest. At the seedtime, which
followed the ingathering, the people were not to sow; they should not
dress the vineyard in the spring; and they must expect neither harvest nor
vintage. Of that which the land produced spontaneously they might eat
while fresh, but they were not to lay up any portion of it in their
storehouses. The yield of this year was to be free for the stranger, the
fatherless, and the widow, and even for the creatures of the field. Exodus
23:10, 11; Leviticus 25:5.
But if the
land ordinarily produced only enough to supply the wants of the people,
how were they to subsist during the year when no crops were gathered? For
this the promise of God made ample provision. "I will command My
blessing upon you in the sixth year," He said, "and it shall
bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and
eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye
shall eat of the old store." Leviticus 25:21,22.
observance of the sabbatical year was to be a benefit to both the land and
the people. The soil, lying untilled for one season, would afterward
produce more plentifully. The people were released from the pressing
labors of the field; and while there were various branches of work that
could be followed during this time, all enjoyed greater leisure, which
afforded opportunity for the restoration of their physical powers for the
exertions of the following years. They had more time for meditation and
prayer, for acquainting themselves with the teachings and requirements of
the Lord, and for the instruction of their households.
sabbatical year the Hebrew slaves were to be set at liberty, and they were
not to be sent away portionless. The Lord's direction was: "When thou
sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty. Thou
shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and
out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the Lord thy God hath blessed thee
thou shalt give unto him." Deuteronomy 15:13, 14.
The hire of a
laborer was to be promptly paid: "Thou shalt not oppress a hired
servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy
strangers that are in thy land: . . . at his day thou shalt give him his
hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth
his heart upon it." Deuteronomy 24:14, 15.
directions were also given concerning the treatment of fugitives from
service: "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is
escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among
you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it
liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him." Deuteronomy 23:15, 16.
To the poor,
the seventh year was a year of release from debt. The Hebrews were
enjoined at all times to assist their needy brethren by lending them money
without interest. To take usury from a poor man was expressly forbidden:
"If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then
thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that
he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear
thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy
money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase." Leviticus
25:35-37. If the debt remained unpaid
until the year of release, the
principal itself could not be recovered. The people were expressly warned
against withholding from their brethren needed assistance on account of
this: "If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren, . . .
thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor
brother. . . . Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart,
saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye
be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry
unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee." "The poor
shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command thee, saying, Thou
shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy
needy, in thy land," "and shalt surely lend him sufficient for
his need, in that which he wanteth." Deuteronomy 15:7-9, 11, 8.
fear that their liberality would bring them to want. Obedience to God's
commandments would surely result in prosperity. "Thou shalt lend unto
many nations," He said, "but thou shalt not borrow; and thou
shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee."
"seven sabbaths of years," "seven times seven years,"
came that great year of release--the jubilee. "Then shalt thou cause
the trumpet of the jubilee to sound . . . throughout all your land. And ye
shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the
land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and
ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every
man unto his family." Leviticus 25:9, 10.
tenth day of the seventh month, in the Day of Atonement," the trumpet
of the jubilee was sounded. Throughout the land, wherever the Jewish
people dwelt, the sound was heard, calling upon all the children of Jacob
to welcome the year of release. On the great Day of Atonement satisfaction
was made for the sins of Israel, and with gladness of heart the people
would welcome the jubilee.
As in the
sabbatical year, the land was not to be sown or reaped, and all that it
produced was to be regarded as the rightful property of the poor. Certain
classes of Hebrew slaves--all who did not receive their liberty in the
sabbatical year--were now set free. But that which especially
distinguished the year of jubilee was the reversion of all landed property
to the family of
the original possessor. By the special direction of God
the land had been divided by lot. After the division was made no one was
at liberty to trade his estate. Neither was he to sell his land unless
poverty compelled him to do so, and then, whenever he or any of his
kindred might desire to redeem it, the purchaser must not refuse to sell
it; and if unredeemed, it would revert to its first possessor or his heirs
in the year of jubilee.
declared to Israel: "The land shall not be sold forever: for the land
is Mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with Me." Leviticus
25:23. The people were to be impressed with the fact that it was God's
land which they were permitted to possess for a time; that He was the
rightful owner, the original proprietor, and that He would have special
consideration made for the poor and unfortunate. It was to be impressed
upon the minds of all that the poor have as much right to a place in God's
world as have the more wealthy.
Such were the
provisions made by our merciful Creator, to lessen suffering, to bring
some ray of hope, to flash some gleam of sunshine, into the life of the
destitute and distressed.
would place a check upon the inordinate love of property and power. Great
evils would result from the continued accumulation of wealth by one class,
and the poverty and degradation of another. Without some restraint the
power of the wealthy would become a monopoly, and the poor, though in
every respect fully as worthy in God's sight, would be regarded and
treated as inferior to their more prosperous brethren. The sense of this
oppression would arouse the passions of the poorer class. There would be a
feeling of despair and desperation which would tend to demoralize society
and open the door to crimes of every description. The regulations that God
established were designed to promote social equality. The provisions of
the sabbatical year and the jubilee would, in a great measure, set right
that which during the interval had gone wrong in the social and political
economy of the nation.
regulations were designed to bless the rich no less than the poor. They
would restrain avarice and a disposition for self-exaltation, and would
cultivate a noble spirit of benevolence; and by fostering good will and
confidence between all classes, they would promote social order, the
stability of government. We are all woven together in the great web of
and whatever we can do to benefit and uplift others will reflect
in blessing upon ourselves. The law of mutual dependence runs through all
classes of society. The poor are not more dependent upon the rich than are
the rich upon the poor. While the one class ask a share in the blessings
which God has bestowed upon their wealthier neighbors, the other need the
faithful service, the strength of brain and bone and muscle, that are the
capital of the poor.
blessings were promised to Israel on condition of obedience to the Lord's
directions. "I will give you rain in due season," He declared,
"and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field
shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage,
and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your
bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in
the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I
will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through
your land. . . . I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall
be My people. . . . But if ye will not hearken unto Me, and will not do
all these commandments; and . . . ye break My covenant: . . . ye shall sow
your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set My face
against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you
shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you."
Leviticus 26: 4-17.
many who urge with great enthusiasm that all men should have an equal
share in the temporal blessings of God. But this was not the purpose of
the Creator. A diversity of condition is one of the means by which God
designs to prove and develop character. Yet He intends that those who have
worldly possessions shall regard themselves merely as stewards of His
goods, as entrusted with means to be employed for the benefit of the
suffering and the needy.
said that we shall have the poor always with us, and He unites His
interest with that of His suffering people. The heart of our Redeemer
sympathizes with the poorest and lowliest of His earthly children. He
tells us that they are His representatives on earth. He has placed them
among us to awaken in our hearts the love that He feels toward the
suffering and oppressed. Pity and benevolence shown to them are accepted
Christ as if shown to Himself. An act of cruelty or neglect toward them
is regarded as though done to Him.
If the law
given by God for the benefit of the poor had continued to be carried out,
how different would be the present condition of the world, morally,
spiritually, and temporally! Selfishness and self-importance would not be
manifested as now, but each would cherish a kind regard for the happiness
and welfare of others; and such widespread destitution as is now seen in
many lands would not exist.
principles which God has enjoined, would prevent the terrible evils that
in all ages have resulted from the oppression of the rich toward the poor
and the suspicion and hatred of the poor toward the rich. While they might
hinder the amassing of great wealth and the indulgence of unbounded
luxury, they would prevent the consequent ignorance and degradation of
tens of thousands whose ill-paid servitude is required to build up these
colossal fortunes. They would bring a peaceful solution of those problems
that now threaten to fill the world with anarchy and bloodshed.