There should be no poor

However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.

Deuteronomy 15:4

I’ve been shopping in Norwich today trying to find a tie for my wedding. Norwich is much like any city in the UK. There are plenty of shops, including high end chains like House of Fraser and John Lewis, as well as the usual high street chains like Top Man and Bhs. The price ranges are incredible; I could buy a suit in Bhs for what some of the ties in House of Fraser cost! You don’t need to look too far to see real poverty as well. Like everywhere else, Norwich has its fair share of Big Issue sellers, beggars, and homeless people sheltering from the rain under old cardboard boxes. The money that one could spend on a tie in House of Fraser – a fairly meaningless garment that is worn a few times then left in the back of the wardrobe – could make a real difference to those needy people in our society.

In Acts 4, we have seen how the new Christians all worked to support one another, with some of the richer members of the church selling some of their belongings in order to provide for the less fortunate. In today’s reading from Deuteronomy, we see a similar idea; we should ensure that the poor are provided for. In fact, this verse goes even further than that; God says that in the land he is to give the Israelites there should be no poor. That’s quite a statement! He goes on to say, though, that he will richly bless those dwelling in his land, and that there will be plenty to go round. In those circumstances, everyone can have what they need, and there is no need for anyone to go without.

Those are challenging words for us, living in a world so divided between rich and poor. We should take these words to heart, though; there is plenty for everyone, if we only shared things round a bit. Ask yourself today – are you doing your bit to ensure that those less fortunate than you are getting what they need?

Called to account

If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.

Deuteronomy 18:19

If there’s one thing that frustrates me in my job as a teacher, it’s students who think they know better than me. I’ve been teaching for seven years now, and in that time have led hundreds of students to exam success. I’ve studied the guidelines from the examination boards, been on courses and read probably thousands of essays. Consequently, when I give my students advice on how to achieve the best results in their exams, I think I know what I’m talking about. Every year, though, I teach a handful of students who think I’m talking rubbish, who ignore my advice and go their own way. Sometimes they still do well, but most of the time their performance is disastrous and they end up retaking.

There are times when, however stubborn we are, we have to concede that others know better than us. Just sometimes we find ourselves having to take on board what they say and acting on their words, even if we think we know best. One of the main stumbling blocks for many non-Christians, and even some Christians, is that we think that we know what is best, and ignore God’s word. It might be because of a lack of faith, a lack of trust or simply because we like to trust our own judgement. In Acts 3, Peter refers to Deuteronomy and quotes Moses telling the Israelites that God will send a prophet to his people and that they must obey everything he says, or he will be cut off from God’s people. In today’s verse, Moses quotes God who told him that anyone who does not listen to the words of the prophet, God himself will hold him to account. In this case, the prophet concerned is not an ordinary prophet, but is the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ. The warning echoes through time; we must do as Jesus commands or else, when the final day of judgement comes, we will find ourselves cut off from God, and will have to answer to him for our actions.

This is a warning for us all. When the day of judgement comes, will we be able to answer for our actions to God? Will we be able to say that the price for our sin has been covered by the death of Christ, or will we find ourselves on our own trying to account for our actions?

Man Cannot Live on Bread Alone

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

Deuteronomy 8:3

When I was on mission a few years ago, a few of us were very naughty when we were in Minsk, the capital city.  We sneaked out of our hotel and headed to McDonald’s.  We were witnessing to Belarussian students, and were supposed to be living alongside them.  Only the richest people can afford to eat in McDonald’s, though, and so it was off limits to our local friends.  We were getting increasingly bored, though, of the national dish – pilmeni, a kind of cross between a mini Cornish pasty, a dumpling, and ravioli.  We were served it every night at supper.  By the time we visited Minsk, therefore, we were desperate for some western food – even if it was only McDonalds.  The reality is, of course, that we are spoilt living in the west having such a wide selection of food to choose from.  For many millions of people, this just is not available.  For lots of people, food of any kind is a blessing.

There’s a distinct parallel between our current Mark Marathon passage and today’s Daily Reading – a verse which was, of course, quoted by Jesus when he was fasting in the desert.  In our Mark Marathon passage, Jesus has been followed by a large crowd who have been so transfixed by his teaching that they had not noticed that it was time to eat.  Jesus, though, miraculously provides them with a simple meal, and feeds all five thousand of them.  In today’s Daily Reading, we are reminded that God miraculously provided food for the people of Israel when they were in the desert.  Additionally, in today’s reading, we are reminded of the importance not just of physical food for our bodies, but also food for our spirits.  The Israelites were taught that man cannot live on bread alone, but needs to feed on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  The reason why people need feeding in the Mark passage is, of course, because they have been doing exactly that – they have been feasting on the words of Jesus.

We should be thankful and grateful for the food that God provides us with every day.  We must not forget, thought, that our spirits also need feeding.  We must ensure that we feed on the word of God every day.  We must ensure that we spend time immersed in God’s word.

The Picking of Kernels

If you enter your neighbour’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain.

Deuteronomy 23:25

I normally write these Daily Readings in my bed, last thing before I go to sleep.  I find it a positive and relaxing end to my waking hours.  Sometimes, though, I lie here, my laptop propped up on my pillow, praying like mad that God will give me some inspiration.  Today, though, when I read this verse, my mind was overflowing with stories I could use to help get into today’s scripture.  Unfortunately, most, if not all of these would mean owning up to one of my deepest, darkest secrets, and I’m not sure I’m prepared to do that.  But no.  The time has come to clear my conscience.  Here goes.

I used to go scrumping.

There – I said it.  Scrumping means taking produce that doesn’t belong to you.  Being brought up in the country, I had plenty of opportunity, and scrumped apples, pears, plums, potatoes, corn on the cob, figs, all kinds of things.  I would like to use Crossring now to apologise to my victims.

In our current Mark Marathon article, Jesus is criticized by the Pharisees for allowing his disciples to pick grain to eat.  The big issue for them is that he is doing so on the Sabbath, a theme we will pick up tomorrow.  Today, though, we see the justification for the actions of the disciples; they are not working, they are picking kernels with their hands to eat, because they are hungry.  If they were taking a sickle to the grain, they would be working – but then they would be in double trouble because that is also outlawed by this verse, and would constitute theft.

God’s word is the vital lifeblood running through the veins of a true believer, but when we pick up on specific ideas and legalistically impose these on other people, we have to be extremely careful.  It was not the Pharisees’ place to judge Jesus’ actions.  Neither is it our place to judge the actions of those around us.  Doing so can cause enormous divisions, which are helpful to no-one.  We all need to ensure that we have the very best understanding of God’s word, and can justify our own actions to God.