If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. (Leviticus 25:35)
In a previous devotion, we mentioned that, in Judaism, the highest form of charity is to step in and help someone before they descend into poverty. In other words, when we see that someone is struggling, we should try and help them whenever possible. The Hebrew wording translated as “falls into poverty” could be literally translated as, “If his hand slips.” When we see that happen, then we are compelled to give him a hand. It is a theme repeated over and over in Scripture — we have a responsibility to help our neighbor because we are our brother’s keeper.
In rabbinical literature, a parable given to underscore this notion teaches that if you see a donkey’s load is beginning to slip, stop what you’re doing and help steady the load before it falls. If someone would take the time to do this, then one person would be sufficient to rectify the situation. But if that person fails to respond in time and the load falls, it will require the assistance of many to put it back in place. In short, “love your neighbor” before they are in a crisis. Furthermore, the Bible makes it clear that we are to look with compassion upon all people — not just those we like and who like us. The instructions say that this same consideration should be applied to those who are strangers among you.
So then, the principle to “love your neighbor as yourself” applies to all, even those you don’t particularly care for. If there was any doubt about this, Yeshua put it to rest in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the parable, the one who cared for the man beaten and robbed wasn’t the one you would expect — the priest or the levite; it was the one you would least expect — the hated Samaritan. Yet, he overlooked the animosity that existed between his people and the Jews and showed compassion for the man laying on the side of the road. This example represents the intent given in the instruction above: have compassion on those less fortunate than you regardless of who they are. When we can do this, we truly display the love of our Father to this world and that, my friends, is how the world will know that we are His.
Blessings and Shalom,