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  • Monica DuBois

30. Take the shirt off his back

Take the shirt off his back too? This phrase means: To unscrupulously take large quantities of money from one and cause one hardship.

Exodus 22:26-27 If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? And it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.

This is among the thou shalt(s), and thou shalt not(s) of Exodus chapters 21-23. But God put it here as a question. He again wants to get to our heart. So, we will look at it and ask why?

If for some reason you lend to a poor person, and you take that person’s coat/blanket/covering as a pledge for the money they borrowed, because that’s all they have to pledge or use as collateral, you are to let them have it back at bedtime. This is their bed, their means to keep warm on a cold night. God promises He will hear this person’s cries in the dark and will hear; “For I am gracious.”

God is watching and waiting to see how you handle the poor. Especially if you have tried to help them, and they have not paid you back yet. God warns do not try to make money on the poor in your tribe. This is different than someone so generous that they would give you the shirt off their back. This is usury. Usury is legal but, in this case, not lawful. If you practice usury as an Israelite, you had a good reputation to maintain. God did not want His people to fall into lording it over the less fortunate people of the camp.


This person is so poor that this is his last thing of value. God is warning his people to not do such an act. Be merciful. God was drawing lines or boundaries which would be acceptable to Him. Taking a man’s outer garment during the day for a pledge is okay but it must be returned by nightfall so the man can sleep as warmly as you. And the lender was not to exact usury which means he could not collect interest from the person. This was between neighbors, family, friends: Israelites.

This is one of the only questions God asks in the laying out of His law. Why? Why does God ask this question here? Is it because He is LOVE? Is it because he knows our selfish nature? Because He sees our covetousness? Our spirit of comparison? Our spirit of control over others? Our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?

It begins with: “If thou at all take thy neighbor’s raiment to pledge…” The words: “At All” jumped out at me. If this is what it has come down to? If you have offered to “help” someone with a debt they owe and you stupe this low as to take their blanket for a pledge… maybe you should just give them the money or whatever they need instead! James 4:17…to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. If you do, at least let them be covered at night while they sleep. Jesus says in Matthew 26:11 For ye have the poor always with you… There will always be poor people around you. How you treat them is important to God. You don’t always know the reasons they are down on their luck. The New Testament says 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. God applauds our merciful heart. The phrase: to give one’s shirt off his back means to do anything to help (someone). He'd give me the shirt off her back if I ever needed help. God has a special place for the poor in his heart. It is all throughout scripture. Deuteronomy 15:11 says: For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. God does clarify our main scripture again without the question in Deuteronomy 24:12-13 And if the man be poor, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge (blanket): In any case thou shalt deliver him the pledge again when the sun goeth down, that he may sleep in his own raiment, and bless thee: and it shall be righteousness unto thee before the Lord thy God. (emphasis mine)

Look at the hidden blessing here for you from the poor person, he will bless you, and then from God if you do this good deed! It shall be counted as righteousness to you from the Lord.

He speaks to us in this manner because He is the One Who made them the poor: 1 Samuel 2:7-8 The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and He hath set the world upon them.

Who are we to judge or respect one person over another? At some time in each one of our lives , we might be chosen to be that poor person. And God has made a provision for that time. He promises to hear our cry then too. Psalm 34:6 This poor man cried and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. How loving is our Father? Examples of people He has lifted up from the poor of the land are: Joseph, David, Esther, Job, Mordecai, and there are so many more that have been on the poor side of the fence. Just think if you were the one to have slighted one of these Pillars of the Faith when they were poor; how terrible would you feel? Probably as bad as Joseph’s brothers when they found their very lives and the lives of all their family were in Joseph’s hands.

If you have ever been poor, or on the receiving end of someone’s generosity, you have been humbled and hopefully have learned to receive graciously of the hands that provide for you. And you bless God and give Him glory for it! God makes a time in each of our lives for this opportunity for each one of us. Have you ever been handed something that you knew you maybe did not deserve, but desperately needed? That is because God made a provision in his law a long time ago, to hear your cry, and to meet your need through other people. God asks this question of us, that we might see the need of desperate people and have compassion and mercy on them. That they might have a good night’s sleep too!

God asks this question, so we put ourselves in the other persons shoes. Are you able to do this when you have opportunity to make money from someone else? Do you ask, how will they sleep tonight if I take this money/object from them?

If this post brings to mind some story or happening in your life, please share with us! God is good and deserves to be glorified!

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