In chapter 15 of Deuteronomy, we read that “there shall be no needy among you” (verse 4) and yet in verse 11, “there will never cease to be needy ones in your land.”
Are Moses and God confused? Or are they using this seeming discrepancy to teach us deeper truths?
Let’s take a look.
The first assertion is made conditional from the start. There will be no needy IF we heed God and follow God’s ways.
Yet, in verse 7, we’re told that if we encounter a needy person, we should not harden our heart or shut our hand against the person, but rather we must open our hand and lend what is needed.
This is made more complex by verse 11, “for there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you: open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.”
How do these verses fit together?
At one level, God seeks a world in which none is needy, and as covenantal partners, we have a role in making it so.
Specifically, when we see another in need, we’re to help the other, with the commandments upon our heart and present in our hands in the action we take.
At a deeper level, these scriptures hold two truths. First, the duty to see, care, and help others in need is one we must bear each and every day of our lives. But second, God’s dream, largely dependent on us for fulfillment and inspiring us forward, is one we also carry each and every day of our lives: “there shall be no needy among us.”
Living with both truths leads to wholeness.