Grace and Gratitude, Issue 100

December 15, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation

The Christian life is shaped by gratitude – gratitude for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is by God’s grace that we receive the gift of our own lives, and so we are called to shape the whole of our lives by our grateful response. “The stewardship of all of life” is a common phrase, yet too often stewardship is reduced to an annual program, the annual program is reduced to the means to achieve an end, and the end is reduced to the church budget. “Gratitude for all of life” may be a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and our use of the gifts God has given us.

The Ten Commandments are not meant to be obeyed in order to win God’s favor. The Ten Commandments are meant to be obeyed in grateful response to God’s favor. While it is true enough that the commandments may point us toward our sin in failing to live in ordered gratitude to God’s grace, the primary purpose of the Decalogue and the whole law that derives from it, is to point us toward the grateful life. A prominent mark of Israel’s gratitude, and the gratitude of the early church, was care for the poor.
  • If anyone is poor among your people in any of the towns in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. (Deut. 15:7-8)
  • Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year … At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your land may come and eat and be satisfied. (Deut. 14:22,28-29)
  • There will always be poor people in your land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward those of your people who are poor and needy in your land. (Deut. 15:11)
  • If any of your people become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them just as you would a foreigner and stranger … You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. (Lev. 25:35,37)
  • Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is an Israelite or is a foreigner working in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. (Deut. 24:14)

Even a small sampling of texts is enough to show the importance of care for the poor. What should not be missed is that care was to be given any who were poor, whether Israelite or foreigner. Why? “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt,” says the Lord (Deut. 24:22). Standing over the whole Torah are the opening words of the Ten Commandments: “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” All of the Law is grateful response to the gracious mercy of God.

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