The set of laws that God gave the ancient nation of Israel included loving provisions to help the poor, afflicted, widowed, foreigners and the less fortunate. One such provision is called gleaning.
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb glean this way: to gather grain or other produce left by reapers, to pick up after a reaper. Therefore gleaning is, the act or practice of gathering grain or produce left behind after a reaper has picked from the field.
God’s instruction regarding gleaning is found in the Bible book of Leviticus where it reads: “When you harvest your land’s produce, you must not harvest all the way to the edge of your field; and don’t gather every remaining bit of your harvest. Leave these items for the poor and the immigrant; I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 23:22 (Common English Bible)
Imagine that! A farmer or anyone who owned acres of land where he planted wheat, barley, rice or any other grain/produce, was told to leave something behind after harvesting. The leftovers were to serve as food for the poor, afflicted, widowed, foreigners and the less fortunate who had to glean or pick the grain/produce for themselves.
The leftovers were not considered a “free handout” because someone had to physically get into the field and work (in some cases for hours) to pick or pick up the grains/produce. The Bible book of Ruth tells of an incident where Ruth was allowed to glean in the field of Boaz. She got up early one day and “…she entered and kept on her feet from that time in the morning…” (Ruth 2:7) Apparently she spent many hours in the field because it was reported that “she continued to glean in the field until the evening, after which she beat out what she had gleaned, and it came to be about an ephah of barley.” (Ruth 2:17) It is believed Ruth spent at least 4 hours gleaning about 5 gallons or 20 quarts or 22 litres of barley according to today’s dry measurement. That is a lot of hard work.
Our heavenly Father did not want any of his people to suffer undue hardship due to poverty. He showed loving concern for all and instructed his people to do likewise. The apostle Paul was mindful of this when he encouraged all to “…keep the poor in mind.” (Galatians 2:10a)
Anyone who considers him/herself to be a true christian, and claims to live by the words of the Bible should remember these words:
“If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, ‘I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.’ What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help?” – James 2:15,16 (Contemporary English Version)
It is very sad that many people today – including politicians who claim to follow the Bible – conveniently forget or ignore this passage in the Bible.