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Leviticus 19:9-10

Serving the Poor

9 And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. 10 And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.


Our passage for today is one that has the welfare of the poor as its main interest. It prescribes that, during the harvest, the owner of the land should not harvest his crop from the corners of his field nor pick up the ears of corn etc. that were dropped or missed during the harvest. The law also extended to the vineyards.

It is not clear how much of the field should be left for the gleaners. The Jews interpreted this law in a variety of ways.

"In the Misnah is a whole treatise, called "Peah", which signifies "the corner", in which there are many decisions concerning this affair; and among the rest, whereas it is not fixed in the law how large the corner should be, what quantity should be left, how many ears of corn, or what a proportion of the field, this is there determined by the wise men, who say, they do not leave less than a sixtieth part; for though they say there is no measure (certain) for the corner, yet the whole is according to the largeness of the field, or according to the multitude of the poor, or according to the plenty of the increase (l), so that, as these were, more or less were left: and though the place to be left is called a corner, it was a matter indifferent in what part of the field it was..." (John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible)

It should be noted that this is not God's welfare system. It does not say that the landowners should harvest the corners and give it to the poor; nor does it provide an easy fix for those who were too lazy to work. This is evident from the story of Ruth.

"And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean... So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley." (Ruth 2:15-17)

In that romantic story, we can see that, even though Boaz was enamored by Ruth and treated her with greater kindness than he would have treated other gleaners, she still had to work from morning to evening for her food. There is a great difference between a poor person and a lazy person. The poor are not poor due to any fault of their own. They are willing to work for what they get or are sick or to old to work. Whereas the lazy are poor by choice.

Nowhere in the scriptures is laziness condoned or rewarded. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man." (Proverbs 6:6-11)

God, however, wants us to be extremely kind to the honest hard working poor, the widows, orphans and to the elderly. This is not always easy. Many of our churches exhaust a great deal of resources trying to feed and clothe the lazy who know how to take advantage of their charity, while many elderly and hard working poor continue to suffer.

My ministry is in a community where a high percentage of the people do not want to work. They depend on government assistance and charities for everything, going from place to place each month and begging for whatever assistance they can get. Their spare time is spent partying. Many can recite scriptures as well as our church members and they know what to say to convince people that they are "good Christians" in need; but they are stealing the resources that could be used to help the poor.

The modern church must use our resources wisely without being unfriendly or coldhearted toward the lazy, because they can also be won to Christ by the gospel. There is nothing wrong with giving them an opportunity to glean. We can, for example, pay them from our food closets for services rendered... cleaning, painting, mowing the church lawn, or helping to deliver food to the elderly. I believe this is a greater kindness than a handout, because it gives them back their self-respect, teaches them the value of work and gives us more opportunity to speak to them about Christ.

Before The Throne:

Pray about the methods that your church uses to help the poor. Ask God to show you ways that you can also help the lazy to feed themselves. Ask Him to give you a kind and loving heart toward both the poor and the lazy, so that you might win some to Christ.

For Further Study:

(v.9) ** ye reap the harvest: Lev 23:29; Deu 24:19-21; Rth 2:2, 15;

(v.10) ** glean: Jdg 8:2; Isa 17:6; 24:13; Jer 49:9; Oba 1:5; Mic 7:1; ** thou shalt: Lev 25:6;

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