Ok, I confess. When I have an ice cream sundae, I want to get ever last bit of that ice creamy and chocolatey goodness. I run my spoon over every part of the bowl and sometimes look both ways to see if anyone else is looking. If not, I’ve been known to lick the bowl to get every last taste. Yes, I’m greedy about getting all of the sweetness, but let’s face it, you really can’t share something like that with anyone.
Compare that attitude with the biblical admonition against greed to the farmer. “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. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10) This goes against human nature and the desire to get every last bit we can get out of our farms. In fact, modern farm machinery, as efficient as it is, flies in the face of this command.
The purpose of this command was that the farmer was to allow others to take care of their needs with dignity. It was a time honored tradition for those who were poor to follow those reaping the fields and glean those areas not covered by the farmer’s help. In that manner, those who were poor were able to take care of their needs with dignity. They were not given handouts, they were able to work for their food. Yes, there were times of emergency when God’s people would take care of people in need, but once the emergency was over, dignity needed to be restored. One famous gleaner was Ruth, who eventually ended up in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
We continue to deal with poverty on our world today. Some of that poverty is a result of the greed of people who don’t leave anything on the edges for those in poverty to glean. No, we aren’t an agrarian society anymore. At the same time, there are ways to allow people in poverty to get what they need while restoring their dignity and letting them work. Our current system breeds dependency. We must find a way to break the cycle of dependency and care for the poor while restoring their dignity.
Lord God, You care for the poor and commanded us to care for those who are poor also. Times have changed. Give us wisdom in crafting a society that will allow those who are in poverty to take care of themselves, restore their dignity, and break the cycle of dependency.