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Gleanings

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and for the alien: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23:22; see Lev. 19:9). Farming is tough. Farming in the ancient world was incredibly tough. A farmer had to plow his field, most often with oxen; then he sowed the seed into the broken-up earth. He then prayed for rain because if the rains didn’t come within about a week, the seed he sowed was useless and would not produce a crop. After the rains, he waited, letting his crop grow. Then came the time to harvest. Having toiled in his field under the scorching sun, sowing seed in the hopes of a growing crop, he receives the reward for his hard labor, prayers, and patience. And then he is told to leave the edges of his fields unharvested and not to pick up whatever fell during the harvest. These—the edges of his field and the gleanings—belong to the poor and the foreigners. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? The farmer worked and toiled. He labored. The field belongs to him, and so does its crops. Yet God required that Israelite farmers leave the edges and the gleanings for the poor and foreigners. We know that ancient Israelite farmers did exactly as God commanded. The story of Ruth and Naomi demonstrates this. Naomi instructed Ruth to gather the gleanings, which she was permitted to do and did. The Bible often challenges our me-first, ego-centric, I-pull-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps culture. Biblical spirituality assumes that I am my brother’s keeper. One of the fascinating things about the law that God gave Israel was that in very practical, everyday activities, God called upon the Israelites to demonstrate their obedience to Him. He concludes the law of the gleanings with the statement: “I am the Lord your God.” You mean I demonstrate God’s lordship in how I care for the poor and foreigner in my midst? Yes! We show our relationship to God in how we treat others, especially those who are less fortunate and outcast within our society. God blessed the work of the farmer by sending rain in its season so the crops would grow. In response, the farmer left portions of his field and harvest to those who had no claim to it. Do we look at those in our culture who have no claim to what is ours and say, God has blessed me, so what I have I share with you? We proclaim God’s lordship in our generosity to others, especially the poor and foreigners.

Father, all that we have comes from Your hand. Thank you. May we proclaim Your lordship and our love for Youby showing generosity to those in need. Amen

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