"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.'" - Deuteronomy 15:11
Amazing, isn't it, that Moses should be saying these words as part of his last thoughts to a people who are themselves landless wanderers not yet at journey's end.
One of the characteristics of this leader was his realism. Moses had crossed too much desert sand, had suffered thirst and hunger with his Israelites and had been rejected and almost assassinated to think that life is a simple journey.
Even so, he wants them to know that they are their brothers' keepers and that they cannot step over those on their path who haven't come as far.
That reads so easily and is so difficult to put into practice. Moses knows that he is contradicting the ancient belief that if a man or woman is good he/she will be blessed abundantly by God. Therefore, the poor must be sinners and so are responsible for their own failure to thrive. Before we get indignant at such beliefs, don't similar words echo today from many who feel that the poor should help themselves and not ask us for assistance.
Some things never change. That is why I need to hear these words of Moses who, by the way, is not making a suggestion, but is giving a command.
I try to remind myself of this when I shop at our local supermarket. The management has long employed packers who are not quite as mentally gifted as some of the rest of us. This very praiseworthy practice results in quite slow stowing of cereal and apples in shopping bags and in very unbalanced loads. When I get a bit impatient, I need to remember the words of Moses. These people are part of God's loved flock, doing their jobs with the greatest of good will. I need to concentrate on that and not on the fact that all the canned goods and bottles are weighing down one bag while the paper towels bob lightly in another.
A real smile marks my thanks as I pick up my groceries. These are my needy neighbors. Who are yours?