In chapter 2 of the book of Ruth in the Old Testament we read the touching account of the widow Ruth setting out to seek food from local farm fields:
“Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, ‘Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favor.’ And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers.”
Seems like an odd thing to do for those of us who are suburbanites or city dwellers and who grew up in the age of supermarkets and convenience stores. But in Ruth’s day it was something that was ingrained in their culture, having been prescribed in the nineteenth chapter of the book of Leviticus:
“Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.”
Okay, that’s nice you might think, but how does that relate to us and our supermarkets and convenience stores today? Not many of us are gardeners, at least not with gardens of any significant size, and I’m not sure how much we’d appreciate strangers walking through our backyards to get to our gardens to search for some leftover carrots, tomatoes or peppers. So where does that leave us with this commandment?
How about our spending habits? As stewards of our income, do we perhaps have a responsibility to not spend it all? (Or to spend perhaps even more than we earn?) As good Christians and New Life “Ministry Partners” we most likely include in our budgets or spending patterns some amount as offerings to God, but even that can be a stretch for us. So what about the “left over?” We talked about in Leviticus? As faithful consumers in our vast economy that somehow seems antithetical or even un-American!
What that means is that spending to the max (or especially over-spending) does not leave us with any left-over cash to help others when God drops a ‘divine appointment’ in our path. That could look like someone in church saying something like “this is terribly embarrassing, but could someone give me some money for gas? I don’t think I have enough to get home.”
Or perhaps the Holy Spirit could prompt you to walk up to an elderly person and hand them a $20 bill, or offer to take them out to lunch or dinner. The point being that if you’re not spent to the max, you open up availability for God to use your “extra” for His opportunities to bless others in tangible and meaningful ways, just like back in Ruth’s day.
Give it a thought!