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 neighbour in your land.”
— DEUTERONOMY 15:11 (NRSV)
Early on as a pastor, our church agreed to host a group of young children and their mothers who came to Canada from Asia, suffering from a serious medical condition. These children required specialized life-saving surgery. They were billeted with two host families along with a translator for six weeks. The purpose of the ministry was for our church to express neighbourly generosity and Christ-like compassion.
Due to multiple unforeseen medical delays, six weeks became three months. In addition, our host families experienced various cultural and language challenges which compounded the needs both families faced. In spite of these challenges, each host family, along with our church community, continued to display an unwavering commitment to active service in full view of our new neighbours—imparting the groundwork for God’s Spirit to work through their daily actions.
Throughout the three months, each mother experienced first-hand how our host families put their faith into action. As a result, curiosity about Jesus emerged. Throughout this ministry, I witnessed our local church responding from a tangible expression of biblical hospitality and generosity modeled before these women.
In hindsight, it would have been easy to decline the invitation to be a neighbour to these distant families in urgent need of medical care. It would have been convenient for our church to keep our hands clenched—to bypass this opportunity altogether—because of its layered complexities.
The message of Deuteronomy 15:11 is a reminder that the needs of our world cannot be avoided. Their daily existence involves a commitment and a response from God’s people to act— to keep our hands open—even amid the unforeseen challenges.
SCRIPTURE TO REFLECT ON: DEUTERONOMY 15:11 (NRSV)
1. What does it mean to “open your hand” to those neighbours around you who are in need?
What do their needs look like? Can you identify them?
2. Consider an area of generosity where your hands may be closed to the needs around you. Identify the reasons for this. Pay attention to the feelings that arise. If needed, take time to prayerfully acknowledge what it will take for your hands to begin to open up.
Rev. Wes Roberts serves as Chaplain at the
Veterans Centre, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, ON.