Best of Daily Reflections: Are You a Sloppy Harvester?
“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God."
When my son, Nathan, was in second grade, his class went on a trip to a local bean field. I tagged along as a driver and chaperone. The students brought grocery bags, and were instructed to go into the field and harvest as many beans as they could, collecting them in their bags. This field had already received its official picking, but, apparently there were still plenty of beans left. Indeed, Nathan and his classmates were able to gather hundreds and hundreds of beans that had been left behind. These were assembled and delivered to a local food bank for distribution to hungry families in our area. The technical name for what Nathan and his friends did that day is gleaning.
The idea of gleaning is found in Leviticus 19, a chapter that begins with the Lord's call to Israel to be holy because he is holy (19:2). But the focus of the chapter is not upon the Tabernacle and its sacrifices, that which we might intuitively associate with holiness in Leviticus. Rather, the holiness required in Leviticus 19 has to do with daily life. The Israelites are to live differently from the people around them, not just in their religiosity, but in how they live each day.
One element of holy living is caring for the poor in tangible ways, such as in the way the Israelites are to harvest their fields. Unlike the common practice of most farmers, the Israelites are to be what you could call "sloppy harvesters." They are not to pick every bit of produce that grows in their fields. Rather, they are to intentionally leave the edges of their fields unharvested. And if someone were to drop some grain or grapes, that should be left on the ground. Why leave behind a small but substantial part of what grows in your field? The Lord explains, "Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God" (19:10). Those who did not have enough to eat would be free to glean the fields.
In today's world, literal gleaning may not always be the best way to care for the poor. But many food producers and sellers have adopted the heart of a "sloppy harvester," if not the precise mode. I just read about a major grocery company in central Texas that donated over 400,000 pounds of food to help food banks feed people for Thanksgiving. In 2009, this same company gave 26 million pounds of food to food banks in Texas and Mexico.
But it's not just companies that can have the heart of a "sloppy harvester." Each of us needs to consider how the way we live expresses consistent care for the poor and hungry. This might mean volunteering regularly in a food bank or feeding center. It might mean supporting a child on a monthly basis through World Vision. One way I have tried to be a "sloppy harvester" is by giving some of my clothing to charity each year. I do it after Christmas, when I usually receive a bunch of new clothes. In this small way, I seek to reflect the generous and compassionate heart of God revealed in Leviticus 19 and throughout Scripture.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How are you being a "sloppy harvester"? Are there new ways you could make caring for the poor a regular part of your life?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for caring, not just about the rich and powerful in our world, but also about the poor and weak. Thank you for your compassion for those who are hungry and homeless, for the powerless, and for victims of injustice. Thank you for building into the law a means for the poor to be fed.
I live in such a different time and place than those who first took Leviticus 19:9-10 to heart. I don't have any fields into which to invite the poor. So help me, Lord, to discern how I can be a "sloppy harvester" in my own context, a person who cares for the poor, not just occasionally, but as a normal, "built-in" part of life.
I pray today for your church, for all of those who belong to you through Christ, that we might continue to lead the world in caring for the poor and the hungry. Give us your heart, O God, a generous and compassionate heart.
I pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.