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God's law; The poor always with you

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posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:01 PM
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The social laws of the Pentateuch were not designed for the modern world,
They were clearly designed for a different kind of world, a mainly agricultural society.
But since they were published in the name of the Biblical God, they can still throw light on his nature and intentions.
Which gives us a new reason for reading this collection even if the laws themselves have been superseded.

Let’s take, for example, what God’s law says about the treatment of the poor.
Strictly speaking, according Deuteronomy, the state of poverty should not have existed at all;
“There will be no poor among you (for the Lord will bless you in the land which the Lord God gives you for an inheritance), if only you will obey the voice of the Lord your God”- Deuteronomy ch15 vv4-5
But this is followed almost immediately (v11) by a warning that “The poor will never cease out of the land”.
That amounts to recognising that the condition of “obedience to the voice of the Lord” will never be fulfilled.

Since “the poor will always be amongst you”, the laws direct their neighbours towards ways of helping them to live.
One of them is the law of gleaning.
Instead of scouring the land with ruthless efficiency, the farmer collects the bulk of his harvest, while tolerating any pockets of un-gathered crops, and allowing the poor to take for themselves what food they can find;
“When you reap your harvest in the field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back for it” Deuteronomy ch24 v19
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner; I am the Lord”- Leviticus ch19 vv9-10
We can see this at work in the story of Ruth. She was gleaning in the fields of Boaz, who encouraged her to remain under the protection of his own people and not to go elsewhere (where the young men might be less respectful).

If the poor man wants to borrow money (or “loan” it, if you’re a Londoner), then the man who lends him the money (or the man who “borrows” the money to him, if you’re a Londoner), will probably demand a pledge.
The law does not forbid the practice, but imposes restrictions.
“No man shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge; for he would be taking a life in pledge”- Deuteronomy ch24 v6
The debtor can’t live without them, because they are the “tools of his trade”; there’s a similar, more generalised, provision in English bankruptcy law.
“When you make your neighbour a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge.
You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you”- Deuteronomy ch24 vv10-11
“If ever you take your neighbour’s garment as pledge, you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down; for that is his only covering, it is his mantle for the body; in what else shall he sleep?” Exodus ch22 vv26-27
“You shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge” Deuteronomy ch24 v17
These provisions allow the debtor to at least retain some dignity in his borrowing.

There is also a ban on the charging of interest, which would make things worse.
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor, and you shall not exact interest from him” Exodus ch22 v25
“You shall not lend upon interest to your brother, interest upon money, interest upon victuals, interest upon anything that is lent for interest” Deuteronomy ch23 v19-20
This leaves no motive for the loan except a care for the brother’s welfare.
(But this immunity from interest is for the benefit of the brethren, and does not apply to the foreigner).

It is written into the law, in any case, that the debt will not be permanent.
“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release…every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbour; he shall not exact it of his brother, his neighbour”- Deuteronomy ch15 vv1-2
But this provision might have an unwanted side-effect, and Deuteronomy warns against it;
“Take heed lest there be a base thought in your heart, and you say “The seventh year, the year of release is near”, and you give him nothing…You will give it freely, and your heart will not be grudging”- Deuteronomy ch15 vv9-10
At first glance, there seems to be a natural way round this problem. The law could simply allow loans to be reclaimed for seven years only from the date of the loan. But that would require some way of proving the date of the loan. In a less documented society, a “general release date” would probably be more workable.

If a man’s debts are large enough, he may be obliged to sell his land-holding.
In which case, in theory, the Jubilee laws of Leviticus would come into play.
The Jubilee is to be celebrated every fiftieth year (or possibly every forty-ninth year).
The basic principle of the law, insofar as it concerns land-ownership, is that no family-group should permanently lose the land which has been assigned to it.
The first possible solution is that “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his next of kin shall come and redeem what his brother has sold”.
Failing that, if the debtor recovers his prosperity in the following years, he may be able to redeem the land himself, by paying for the years that remain before the Jubilee period expires.
Failing that again, the land will be “released” in the year of Jubilee, and he (or at least his family) will be able to return to it.- Leviticus ch25 vv25-28

What can these laws tell us about the God who endorses them?
They speak of a God whose concern is for the weak and vulnerable, making it easier for them to maintain themselves and live.
They work by taking the sense of “care for the brother”, which belongs to the kinship system, and extending it more widely, to cover the whole nation.
In so doing, they bring in the concept of the “near kinsman”, the redeemer, the one who can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
This then prompts the reflection that the same description might be applied to God himself.
This is already moving towards the teaching of love.

We may think that these laws are imperfect.
We may call it a fault that the definition of “brother” hasn’t been extended even further, to cover the world at large.
I think this demonstrates once again what we learn from some of the other laws, that God is willing to compromise.
It may have been God’s final will that “all the world” should be treated as our brethren, but that further step was not taken because the Israelites were not yet ready to receive it.

So this shows us a God who deals with people as he finds them, starting with the customs they’ve got already and aiming to improve them.
He is prepared to deal with people in ways that they can understand, before trying to lead them further.




posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:02 PM
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The laws of other societies;

The Roman law of the Twelve Tables is startlingly ruthless on the subject of debtors;


Table III

________________________________________

1. – One who has confessed a debt, or against whom judgment has been pronounced, shall have thirty days to pay it in. After that forcible seizure of his person is allowed. The creditor shall bring him before the magistrate. Unless he pays the amount of the judgment or some one in the presence of the magistrate interferes in his behalf as protector the creditor so shall take him home and fasten him in stocks or fetters. He shall fasten him with not less than fifteen pounds of weight or, if he choose, with more. If the prisoner choose, he may furnish his own food. If he does not, the creditor must give him a pound of meal daily ; if he choose he may give him more.
2. – On the third market day let them divide his body among them. If they cut more or less than each one's share it shall be no crime.

This out-Shylocks Shylock, and also rules out in advance the only legal argument which Portia could use against him.

Babylonian law is a little more understanding to a debtor in difficulties.


48. If any one owe a debt for a loan, and a storm prostrates the grain, or the harvest fail, or the grain does not grow for lack of water; in that year he need not give his creditor any grain, he washes his debt-tablet in water and pays no rent for this year.


However, neither society thinks of banning interest upon loans.
Part of the Code of Hammurabi has been lost, but the break appears to end in the middle of a law on the subject;

100. ... interest for the money, as much as he has received, he shall give a note therefor, and on the day, when they settle, pay to the merchant.


As for Rome; in 358 B.C., according to Livy, the people voted “with enthusiasm” for a law proposed by the tribunes which limited interest to one-twelfth of the principal. But historians dispute whether this means one-twelfth each month (one hundred percent per annum) or each year (only eight and a half percent).

Code of Hammurabi
Roman laws
The most important discovery in this comparison is what appears to be missing from the other two sets of laws.
Besides the failure to forbid the charging of interest, they don’t make it their business to offer the kind of provision which Israelite law makes for the protection of the vulnerable, such as the instructions on gleaning and pledges.
This seems to confirm “the protection of the vulnerable” as a particular concern of the Israelite God.



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:04 PM
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The question of usury

As a result of the statement that Israelites should not be charging interest on loans to their brethren, the legitimacy of money-lending as an occupation has been a contentious issue since the Middle Ages.
Should the ban be absolute? Is it really immoral to accept interest of any kind?

I believe we need to approach this question by bearing in mind the real purpose of the law.
The intention of this law is obviously to prevent the exploitation of the poor.
As the Exodus version of the law specifies; “If you have any of my people with you who are poor…”

Now, let’s consider a hypothetical case.
A prosperous mediaeval merchant wants to travel to distant parts of Europe in order to sell goods and bring back goods for sale.
He wants to borrow money to provide a larger capital for the enterprise, because he’s convinced this will increase his profit.
Does this merchant count as a poor man? I think not.
Therefore charging him interest on the loan does not really count as exploitation of the poor.
In my opinion, then, there was no reason why the mediaeval church should have tried to discourage the practice of commercial lending with interest.
They were doing so partly because they had lost sight of the original purpose of the law, and were justifying the ban on the basis of artificial theories about the nature of money.

Or another, more modern, example.
Consider the large banking institutions.
I would be surprised if anyone thinks of them as poor people.
So if the banks offer people interest on the balance in their accounts, accepting the interest does not really count as exploitation of the poor.
And those who maintain that this kind of account is immoral are again losing sight of the original purpose of the law.

In recent times, on the other hand, Britain has seen the rapid growth of companies offering “pay-day loans”.
These are short-term loans advertised as “convenient”, but the interest charged, when calculated out as a rate per annum, can be breath-taking.
I’ve just checked a website which quotes the “best” lenders as charging 26 percent, and the “worst” going up to 2600 percent.
And the effect, if loans are not paid off quickly, is to drive families deeper into debt.
Now surely THAT is the kind of situation which the Israelite law is intended to address.
Rather than commercial lending or interest-bearing bank accounts.



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:10 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


Interesting that usury is basically what is destroying our world as it stands...

Would you not agree that Jesus was against the practice?

He said give freely without expecting anything in return...




posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:12 PM
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reply to post by Akragon
 

Tha quotation is about using spiritual powers.
"Freely you have received...".


edit on 21-3-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:16 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


No im afraid it was not... One does not lend teaching

34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.





posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:22 PM
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reply to post by Akragon
 

You are ignoring the distinction I was making between what is, and is not, exploitation of the poor.

The text is a recommendation to give freely to those who need.

But a businessman who wants to borrow money so that he can make a bigger profit out of it is not a person in need.
Or bankers who offer you interest on money you have deposited with them don't really count as "people in need", so there is no rational reason why it should be sinful to take the money.
These are not the things he is talking about.



edit on 21-3-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:29 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


Well again I will have to disagree...

These people are in need... In need of money... and the more they make the happier they are...

One can not worship God and money...

its not about exploitation of the poor, usury is evil in every sense of the word.

I don't believe Jesus said its ok to lend at interest sometimes...

He just said don't do it, and in the same chapter he says this...

24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.




posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:36 PM
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Akragon
These people are in need... In need of money... and the more they make the happier they are...

The examples I quoted were not genuine "need" for money, but only desire for it on the part of the buseinessmen and the bankers.
So there is no reason why we should be under a moral obligation to give them money freely.
Do you genuinely feel a moral impulse to give the bankers as much money as they like, up to the limits of your ability? Of course you don't. And I suggest that Jesus is not telling you to give them all your money.

The words of Jesus in the gospel are an expanded commentary on "love your neighbour", and there is nothing "unloving to your neighbour" in the act of accepting interest on bank accounts.

edit on 21-3-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:48 PM
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DISRAELI

Akragon
These people are in need... In need of money... and the more they make the happier they are...

The examples I quoted were not genuine "need" for money, but only desire for it on the part of the buseinessmen and the bankers.
So there is no reason why we should be under a moral obligation to give them money freely.
Do you genuinely feel a moral impulse to give the bankers as much money as they like, up to the limits of your ability? Of course you don't. And I suggest that Jesus is not telling you to give them all your money.

The words of Jesus in the gospel are an expanded commentary on "love your neighbour", and there is nothing "unloving to your neighbour" in the act of accepting interest on bank accounts.

edit on 21-3-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)


Of course He's not saying Give the bankers your money... In fact I believe Jesus would be outraged by the very existence of banks, and bankers.

And we're not talking about "bank accounts" either... You provide a bank with your money for them to invest, in return they "give" you interest on that money... that is not usury


Usury is charging interest on money that is borrowed...

Lend freely, means if your brother is in need of money, give him what he/she needs... and expect nothing in return, that is giving...

IF I gave you $100... and said when you return this money to me, I want 10% interest on it... That is Usury...

Now what IF that money I lent you had no return on whatever investment you had planed... You still have to return my $100 dollars, plus now you owe me an extra $10 which you don't have.... Now you're in debt to me...

Evil I tell you... Pure and simple

and yes... banks are evil corperations

edit on 21-3-2014 by Akragon because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 06:57 PM
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Akragon
And we're not talking about "bank accounts" either... You provide a bank with your money for them to invest, in return they "give" you interest on that money... that is not usury

You must be aware that at least one religious group does regard it as immoral to accept interest on bank accounts, so that was one of the viewpoints I was addressing. You agree with me on that point. So far, so good.


Lend freely, means if your brother is in need of money, give him what he/she needs... and expect nothing in return, that is giving...

Yes, that is my understanding of the Exodus law and what Jesus meant. We agree again.

But my other example was of the purely business use; if a man wants to make a lot of money by a business venture, and expects to make even more if he borrows some of his capital, that is not a genuine case of a "brother in need", and there is a) no moral obligation to lend him the money, and b) consequently nothing wrong with accepting interest on any money you do lend him.



edit on 21-3-2014 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:05 PM
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Some have and some need.
What defines that thing as someone's?
I think you should consider possession more than "lending".

Some argue that nothing is ours and that everything belongs to everybody.
But this can lead to complacency and dependence which hard working people abhor obviously.
Although just because you are hard working doesn't mean you should be free to reap all rewards from the resources close to you when those hard working from a different region have to do with scraps.

I feel though once again these are societies laws based on gods or existences law that if we don't choose correctly how to deal with such things a negative effect will happen.

Our choice is on how you want your choice based on that law to effect matters: short term a negative choice can be good for you but over time bad. a positive choice can be bad for you but over time good...



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:08 PM
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reply to post by guidetube
 

I think the essence of this particular set of laws is "concern for the weak and vulnerable in society".
The way that works out in practice needs flexibility.



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:09 PM
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reply to post by DISRAELI
 


I just want to be clear here... Im not trying to derail your thread

I've read all of your "Gods laws" threads, and have given you many flags for them, they are well thought out, and honestly a very interesting read

Though again my argument isn't about banks or business owners... There were no banks in biblical times... and I would highly doubt that large businesses like we have today existed either.

Notice in that passage in exodus it says specifically... you can not lend at interest to a "brother"... this basically means a fellow Hebrew

This "law" makes the exception to one group of people, and all others are subject to usury...

Perhaps its just ironic that the banking systems of the world are controlled by jewish people... though perhaps that is just another conspiracy...

There is nothing good about lending money at interest... Again we're not talking about banks that have soo much money they don't know what to do with most of it here...

IF one lends at interest, he is not giving anything... There is no giving involved when the return for the simple act of giving involves paying back more then that person borrowed in the first place...

Its actually called "enslavement" which most people in this day are under... enslavement to the financial institutions

Usury is designed from the very beginning of its conception to bring debt to the less fortunate...

And in some cases, IF not most... that debt is impossible to get out of

S&F for your thread though




posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:21 PM
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reply to post by Akragon
 


I think that's your interpretation, and it was certainly the interpretation that certain Jews took during the Middle Ages that allowed them to become so wealthy despite being confined in society.

However, how many times did Christ refer to anyone he met as "brother" or "sister?" Clearly, God's interpretation is that we are all the "brothers" and "sisters."



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:26 PM
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Akragon
Notice in that passage in exodus it says specifically... you can not lend at interest to a "brother"... this basically means a fellow Hebrew

As I remarked before, it also specifies poor brother.
This comes down to the question of whether interest charging is wrong in itself or because of the effect on the weak and vulnerable.
I would focus on the second explanation.
In the Middle Ages, the papal doctine on usury, using the first explanation, was capable of being a genuine obstruction to trade, because traders found it difficult to get finance, and was one of the reasons for the Jews getting involved in finance (since Christians were told to keep out).
That was the side-effect of over-legalistic interpretation, and I think it distorted the intention of the text.
I'm not convinced these laws were considering any kind of situation except "poor man in trouble".



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:28 PM
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reply to post by ketsuko
 

Yes, I made this point at the bottom of the OP, of the concept of "brotherhood" getting expanded outwards as things progressed.



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:34 PM
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DISRAELI
reply to post by guidetube
 

I think the essence of this particular set of laws is "concern for the weak and vulnerable in society".
The way that works out in practice needs flexibility.



Well that actually made me think! Much more eloquently put. I don't think its Gods law that we have concern for the weak or vulnerable specifically only another choice given to us to look for the good in.

Can you consider other possibilities were concern for the weak and vulnerable would be wrong?



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:43 PM
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reply to post by guidetube
 

I'm not quite sure what you mean, but there would certainly be ways of "helping" the weak which were not genuinely helpful to them.
For example, I once knew a priest who would rather give food to a street beggar than money to buy food, on the argument that money would only be spent on drink. He would regard giving money as being the "wrong way" to help that particular group.
Hence the need to be flexible in thinking.



posted on Mar, 21 2014 @ 07:47 PM
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Matthew 25:14-30
English Standard Version (ESV)

The Parable of the Talents
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants[a] and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.[c] You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Why would Jesus use this parable if he was against intrest? After he says many times he reaps where he does not sow.





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