Guest Post: Gleaning from the Edges

Thanks to Tim Fall, who has blogged here before, for this guest post on gleaning and feasting…

In reading the passage on the word “glean” in Keri Wyatt Kent’s Deeper Into the Word –Reflection on 100 words from the Old Testament, I found Leviticus 23:22 –

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.

Keri pointed out that this isn’t the first instance of God’s instruction to leave something for those less well-off, but it is one of the most interesting.

Leviticus 23 is a list of the annual festivals and feasts the Israelites are to keep. It’s as if God, in the middle of reminding them of the feasts, says, “Oh, did I mention – don’t forget the poor.” It’s a poignant look at the heart of God, who even as he tells his people to feast, reminds them to feed the poor. What good would feasting be if his people forgot the hungry? (Deeper Into the Word, p. 99.)

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New Testament Hospitality

Keri’s insight onto Leviticus 23 made me think of Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 –

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing?

Paul, the Pharisee who learned that grace triumphs over law, became very Levitical here, but not in the legalistic sense. No, he understood the heart of God. To paraphrase Keri, what good would celebrating the Lord’s Supper be if doing so meant forgetting the poor, or (as Paul puts it) if it means humiliating those who have nothing? Paul knew that God’s concern for the poor goes back to the beginning of Israel’s existence, and that God’s people should continue to show that care and concern for those who have nothing.

Here’s Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 6:10 –

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

“Good to all people” – what a wonderful phrase. It reminds me that there are people I can be good to, and that I also have a need for people to do good to me. Whether that means I glean from the edges of their fields or they glean from the edge of mine, I hope each day to remember that God cares about all who are in need.

And that’s all of us.

a note from Rachel:

My new book, Eat With Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food, you’ll find a discussion of Old Testament gleaning as they work out in the lovely little book of Ruth and how all of this translates to working–and eating!–toward food justice for the ‘least of these’ today.