As many know, I developed a study of the book of Ruth (and had a wonderful time of it, by the way), and one thing I point out in the study is that Ruth and Na’omi represent the poor of Bethlehem, and as widows they have no visible means of support, so Ruth does what was the norm for that era, she decides to go out and “glean.”
Gleaning was the “food stamp program” of ancient times; gleaning gave the poverty stricken the opportunity to obtain food. But what we have to keep in mind is that in this agricultural society gleaning occurred simultaneously with harvesting. So just as a farmer has to sow, then tend, and then wait for the crop to grow up and ripen before he can harvest it and use the produce, so it was for gleaners. The poor had to work behind the reapers (the harvesters), immediately picking up what the reapers left behind, with the idea of gathering more than they would use in a single day. They would need to store up the produce (usually grain) that they gleaned to use during the bulk of the time that was the planting and growing cycle, when there was no gathering of food (no harvesting) occurring.
Let’s also be clear that gleaning was a right of the poor in Israel, not a privilege; it wasn’t something that the field’s owners could grant or not grant to gleaners according to his charity. The Torah made it God’s law that the owner’s must not harvest all their crops but leave sufficient for the poor, and especially for widows. So Ruth could literally wander around and choose at her own discretion which field she would like to glean. In fact part of the law on gleaning was that in lean times the owners of the fields were required to make more of their crops available to the gleaners than usual. That is quite a contrast to the more typical human reaction where in tough times (like our nation and the world in general are experiencing now) that people give less of their incomes to charity even though the number of needy is on the rise.
Now what does that mean to us, today? Well, if the “farmers” refused to provide the crops for the “gleaners,” those in need, they were judged by God and could themselves suffer loss. However, those who were obedient (and I might add, joyfully obedient), God would poor out greater crops and blessings for the farmers.
I hope your ears popped up there, because there is direct correlation between our current economic times and those ancient laws. If you are going to horde and withhold from those in-need, you will see harder times. However, if you will continue (or start) to provide for those in need, you will see abundance.
A passage my wife and I have taken to our hearts years ago is Romans 12:13, from the Living Bible: “When God’s children are in need, you be the one to help them out.” Notice, Paul didn’t say to call the Pastor or the elders, he said you be the one. He has shown you the need, he will provide the means for you to meet that need.
One of the Pastors in our church leads a ministry to single moms. I never saw that need, but she sure has a burning heart and enthusiasm for caring for single-moms. There is also a Brother who burns with passion and enthusiasm for Military Vets. God has placed that need on his heart. Both people will encourage others to assist in help them care for the single-moms or vets, and that is good, because that may be how the Lord will get your attention to the need. If so, He will “quicken” your heart to join in the support and care of those needs. Other times he may not . . . that is in His leading, not the one announcing the need.
Paul also told the Roman Church to, “not just pretend that you love others, really love them!” I love what Steve Camp sang, “Don’t tell them Jesus loves them, until you’re willing to love them too!”
My point is that even in the midst of economic crisis, the Lord will enable you to meet the needs of others (while He is meeting your needs). (Oh, by the way, you may indeed be the one who is “in need,” and our Lord will encourage someone to meet your needs–to be too proud and or stubborned to receive the blessings. I say that, because it is far easier for me to meet the needs of others, and find it very difficult to receive the help).
Let our Lord be Glorified in all of this!
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It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.