When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. ~ Leviticus 19:9-10
And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. ~ Leviticus 23:22
When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this. ~ Deuteronomy 24:19-22
And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. ~ Ruth 2:2-3
Think of it. God commanded farmers to be inefficient at what they do for the sake of the poor. They were not to maximize their “stewardship” of their resources but were to instead allow economic inefficiency to benefit the poor.
This is so contrary to the drumbeat of stewardship and resourcefulness that receives most of the attention in the American church (at least in my experience). The gleaning laws were not about some special act of charity. Rather, in the normal course of your work and life, you were to be a bit sloppy and inefficient so others might benefit. You were not to be faithful in the little acts of diligence so God would bless your work. Instead, you were to neglect what might be considered normal diligent work so that God would bless you.
But how might this apply to the very non-agrarian life most of us live? One pattern that Tricia and I have tried to establish that might be an application is this: we don’t do garage sales. In the normal course of things, all that stuff that might go into a garage sale goes to Goodwill. Oh, we sell an occasional large item on eBay or Craigslist. But rather than seeking to capitalize on the clothes, toys, and household items that need a new home, we pass them along with the hope that they might help the poor. In this way we aspire to “not reap your field right up to its edge”.
In what other ways might we live out the gleaning laws today? Where should our normal view of diligent stewardship give way to a Godly inefficiency that benefits the poor?