When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.—Leviticus 19:9-10, NLT
As part of the social provisions of the Law, God commanded the Israelites not to let greed overcome them, but rather to allow opportunity for the landless poor and the recently arrived foreigner to gather food for their survival. The implications of this command—repeated verbatim in Leviticus 23:22—offer several principles to guide our charitable giving:
- God loves people regardless of their national origin, as equally concerned for immigrants as for the native poor.
- Everyone has a duty to participate in charity. Rather than grabbing everything for themselves, every Israelite who enjoyed the blessing of harvest had an obligation to contribute something to the poor. At the same time, this form of charity required the poor and the immigrant to do something for themselves. God could have required the Israelites to give a set percentage of their harvest to the less fortunate, but instead insisted on a form of giving that required the poor to work for what they got.
- Meeting the physical needs of the poor and immigrants does not fulfill their total need. Working for a living rather than passively receiving an offering preseves the dignity of the poor. Immigrants come to work because their home countries do not generate enough work to ensure the thriving of their families. A strong, freedom-based economy is the best help a receptor nation can offer to immigrants, and precisely the one they come looking for. As they begin to work, they often become entrepreneurs, creating jobs for native-born workers and immigrants alike.
- Why should we take care to obey this commandment? Because the LORD is our God and this command flows out of God’s very nature and self.
Obedience to the principle of equal justice in this law wound up blessing Israel immensely. When Ruth, the Moabitess, immigrated to Bethlehem, she initially survived by gleaning the grain left in fields by righteous Israelites. Not only did she feed herself, but also her Israelite mother in law, Naomi. When Boaz the farmer took notice of her and married her, their family would within two short generations produce Israel’s greatest political leader, King David.
No one can outgive God. When we give opportunity to immigrants and the poor, God will do justice by us as well in the blessings we will all share.
Copyright©2013 by Joseph L. Castleberry. All Rights Reserved. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Joseph Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. He is the author of The New Pilgrims: How Immigrants are Renewing America’s Faith (forthcoming in August 2015, Worthy Publishing). Follow him on Twitter @DrCastleberry and at http://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Castleberry.