25 Sep Lessons on GIVING From the Law of GLEANING
God gave a set of radically different laws to His people when He carved them out as a nation. The Law of Gleaning Right is an interesting example, a sharp contrast to the practices that we follow in our modern world that strives for maximizing ROI (returns on investments) in a rat race for amassing wealth. The law of gleaning right is detailed in several passages in Leviticus and Deu. Lev 19:9-10; 23: 22; 24:19; Due. 24: 20-21, and so on.
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over to your vineyard a second time, or pick up the grapes which are fallen. Leave them for the poor and the aliens (refugees). I am the LORD your God. (Lev. 19:9- 10 is repeated again in Lev. 22:23) When you are harvesting in your field, and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it to the aliens, the orphans and the widows. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time, Leave what is remaining, to the aliens, the orphans and widows. (Due.24: 19-21) The Lord wanted His people to follow these economic laws challenging the practices of that day among other nations, revealing His heart for the poor- Let there be no poor among you, Deu.15:4. The repeated mention of the gleaning right with specific instructions and the mention of aliens (refugees who does not have a ration card /aadhar card), orphans, widows and the poor as the beneficiaries are unique in comparison to any culture / nation in history. Jewish traditions say that those who prevented the poor from coming into his field by keeping animals to frighten them away, or he who favored one poor man to the injury of another, was considered a robber of the poor.
We find the law of gleaning right being practised by God’s people as illustrated in the book of Ruth. When Boaz the boss arrived from Bethlehem, he greeted the harvesters “the Lord be with you” and the harvesters greeted him back “The Lord bless you”- what an example of good relations!!! Then on finding that Ruth, the Moabitess sought gleaning right in his field and that the stewards have granted that to her, Boaz got on to a conversation with her, and later blessed her, May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge. And later he instructed the harvesters, even if she gathers among the sheaves, do not embarrass her rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her, Ruth: 2: 15-16. Boaz, the ‘landlord’ was amazingly different. He expressed true concern for the needy and even offered hospitality for the gleaners in his field. What a culture of giving – a culture that reflected grace and mercy in abundance. The home he grew up with his mother Rahab (who experienced God’ grace and mercy in being added to God’s community) and his father Salmon (whom God gracefully gave a woman of faith – Rahab as his wife) could have contributed to these values I guess. A culture of such a giving can only be in such a community that receives and gives God’s grace and mercy beyond measures.
1. Gleaning right to the poor was not on a measure. It is not defined to what extend should be the edges (Pe’ah in Hebrew calls for corners of the land with crops standing, kept aside for gleaners to harvest), nor to what extent should be the harvested grain bunches (Leketin Hebrew) to be left on the field for the gleaners to pick up. Both Pe’ah and Leket were in voluntary measures as an expression of the Land owner’s love for the Lord.
2. Gleaning right to the poor was beyond the tithes and sacrifices that they were offering to the Lord (Deu.14: 28-29) as organized giving.
3. People were allowed to glean in field for long hours. It seems that they could sufficiently collect grains for their immediate needs.
4. Gleaning right to the poor was given just with one explanation (like most of the laws in Leviticus), that “I am the Lord your God,” calling people to follow the law as an expression of their submission to the Lordship of God in their properties.
Notwithstanding the arguments for and against the law of gleaning right, whether that would promote laziness among the poor, etc. . . it’s again an amazing example of the heart of God for all in His world for equality, dignity, and provisions, especially for those deprived of it for reasons whatsoever. . In fact each of these laws that God gave to His people, call for a radically different culture that promoted
equality, justice, and dignity for all as expressions of His grace and mercy.
Our learning from this law?
Can we approach Christian Giving in a legalistic way? – Tithe – and the remaining “for self”? Even in the Old Testament, as illustrated in the law of gleaning right, God’s people were called to give much beyond their tithes – as an expression of their submission to the Lordship of God in all that they possessed. Taxes, corporate social responsibility factors for the industry, etc., are found to be insufficient to curb the rate at which poverty is increasing in our society (both urban poverty as well as the rural).
Isn’t it our responsibility to express God’s concern to provide dignity and provisions to them by giving them the gleaning right
in our wealth and belongings, as we possess quite a lot of material wealth in comparison?
In an EGF home that I visited sometime ago, I found a framed unattractive photograph of a poor village. And our civil servant EGF man pointed to the picture and said “my parents hailed from that village and I grew up there”. I found something in practice
from Leviticus there, the Lord’s instruction to His people to remember their past- “Remember that you were slaves (and aliens) in Egypt”. Can our homes have such portraits? May be a step further, portraits of people in need as pointer for us to cry out to the Lord for His mercies to our generation? Can such poor children have gleaning rights in our homes and in our treasures that we cherish? Can they find a home in our homes? Can the poor have a gleaning right in our time amidst our busy schedules? Can we extract some
time to visit the poor and the needy? Being with them in their difficult situations, to pray with them in the name of Jesus? Can the poor have a gleaning right in our talents? Can we think of applying our knowledge base to address some of their difficult situations?
As UESI community we can express gleaning right to the poor in many ways. There are hundreds in our cities, especially among the
urban poor who drop out from schools and colleges just because they can’t afford it. Practising open homes, where these needy can find a home for them, sponsoring their education expenses etc are some of the steps that we can immediately take. As people who experienced God’s grace and mercy in abundance, let us be such a community where many will glean and grow in dignity.
Reji lives in Pune with his wife Betsy and their children Monica and Roshan. He works as the General Manager
in an automotive ancillary company in Pune. Reji currently serves as a member of the UESI Finance & Admin Committee among other involvements in Pune and Maharashtra.