"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...

5 Comments

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Robert commented…

I know for myself, growing up in a "Christian bubble" makes it harder for me to identify with others who have certain "behaviors" or "attitudes" that don't align with God's Word. A way to apply this principle in the article for me is to realize that we all have been exposed to light, but not in the same way or in the same amount(s). I am not the Holy Spirit and I need to realize that the spiritual fruit that I harvest is not "my own" and I was once a spiritual "slave in Egypt". Thanks for writing the article! It's a good reminder!

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Matt LeRoy commented…

Great article Kate. Love your observations. It is beautiful to see the seeds of grace, mercy, and compassion planted deep in the earliest glimpses we have of God. Written into the Law and constitution of His new people is a new way to live that set them apart from the world, but made them a blessing for the world. Thanks for your wise insights here.

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Anna Marie commented…

My mother always used to say "nothing we own is really ours." Often when I hear people refer to objects or things as belonging to them God often cues in with "nothing is yours but all things are mine". Even our own bodies. I asked someone the other day who just commented about how its "his body" and i was like "so did you make it?" and there was no reply but Im sure I sparked somewhat of a ponderance concerning the matter. Working in the Army and dealing with accountablitly of items and such it was a good reminder that all things belong to God so it motivates me to take care of God's stuff.
Thanks
anna

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David commented…

Thanks for the article. It's very timely as our youth group is getting ready for World Vision's 30 Hr Famine next month. I'll share this with them.

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Kate Stevens commented…

Thanks for your comments everyone! I think I have a harder time recognizing God's ownership of things that I feel like I've had my hand in than of things that happen completely apart from anything I've done. I think it's definitely healthy to reevaluate my understanding of my ownership of everything from my money and my socks to my gifts and time.
David, that's great to hear you're planning on a 30 Hour Famine this year with your youth group. No surprise, but I am a huge advocate of the Famine and of the power it has to transform lives overseas as well as to transform the lives of the students and adults doing the Famine! I'll definitely be doing the Famine myself!

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