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“Do not glean the vines after they are picked…”

“Do not glean the vines after they are picked…”

I enjoy reading Deuteronomy. There’s something about the promises and advice that God offers his people that catches and keeps my attention. Deuteronomy 24 did just that for me the other day:

“True justice must be given to foreigners living among you and to orphans…Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I have given you this command. When you are harvesting your crops and forget to bring in a bundle of grain from your field, don’t go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Then the LORD your God will bless you in all you do. When you beat the olives from your olive trees, don’t go over the boughs twice. Leave some of the olives for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. This also applies to the grapes in your vineyard. Do not glean the vines after they are picked, but leave any remaining grapes for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command.”

I thought it was quite interesting that built right into the moral fabric of the society of God’s people was an expectation that they provide for people who were’t able to make a living for themselves, people who lived in their own community. Even more interesting is the fact that this wasn’t built to simply be a handout; the foreigners, orphans and widows taking advantage of this social provision were required to work for it and were hopefully able to gain a certain element of dignity from this.

There are a few things that I think we need to believe in order to follow this principal in some way:

1) We don’t own everything we have. – I think there’s something industrious in us and in our culture that leads us to try to get the most out of what we have. Anything short of that can be seen as wasteful. We want to maximize profit, multi task to make the most of our time and claim everything we can for ourselves. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with this principle because it helps us not to waste our resources, but it’s difficult sometimes to make the switch to leaving or giving something that we think we’ve rightfully earned.

2) When we make an offering or respond to a need for justice, we need to remember our past. – Important to this principle, was God’s command to His people to remember what it was like when they were slaves in Egypt. I love this because I think it was partly God’s ways of reminding his people that they weren’t any better than the people who would be benefitting from what they left behind in their fields; they knew what it was like to face challenges. We may not all have been recipients of charity, but I doubt there’s one of us who hasn’t faced hardship, hurt or challenge in some way.

Assuming that this passage is applicable in today’s context, of course, I’m interested to know some thoughts on how this principle could apply for us.

Is it just a matter of making sure that we’re tithing and not holding onto all we have? Is it making sure that we don’t assume there’s something about us that’s better than the people who are benefitting from our charity? Does this propose an alternative model for charity that we don’t typically use or does it fit what we’re already doing?

Until next time…

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