Using the Gleaning Principle to Help the Poor

And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the fields and pick up the leftover grain behind anyone in whose eyes I find favor.” Naomi said to her, “Go ahead, my daughter.” So she went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters. As it turned out, she was working in a field belonging to Boaz, who was from the clan of Elimelek.
Ruth 2:2-3, NIV

In ancient Israel, God instituted the practice of gleaning as a way to feed the poor. A farmer would leave some of his crop in the fields, and afterward the poor (the fatherless, widows, foreigners) would gather the leftover crops for their own sustenance.*

Vineyards, as well as fields of grain, were to be available for gleaning (see Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:20 – 21). The most well-known example of gleaning is found in the book of Ruth. To feed herself and her mother-in-law, Ruth “went out, entered a field and began to glean behind the harvesters . . .” (2:3).

Gleaning was a command by God for those with productive resources to leave something extra so that the poor, through their own labor, could provide for themselves. Although the practice is no longer required for Christians, it provides an example that can be applied to the stewardship of our own resources.

1. Leave some work for others — We no longer live in a society dominated by agriculture. Instead of working to create produce, most of us use our labor to produce goods and services in exchange for money. Because of our type of economic system, it isn’t always easy to see work we can leave for others. But by thinking creatively, we can often find a way to let the poor use their own labor to provide for their own needs. For example, while we might be capable of mowing our own lawn or cleaning our own home, paying someone less fortunate to do the work can be a viable way of applying the gleaning principle.

2. Gleaning is better than a handout — You might ask, rather than pay someone to do work for us, why not just give them the money? Direct contributions can be a valid and efficient form of charity. But giving someone a handout deprives them of the value and dignity that can be gained from working and earning an income. God could have commanded landowners to simply collect the crops and give them to the poor; instead, he protected the dignity of the poor by requiring them to contribute their own labor.

PRACTICAL TAKEAWAY: The Biblical practice of gleaning can be a model for how to combine stewardship and charity.

How can you apply the gleaning principle? Is there work you may be able to offer someone? Post a comment below!

* Andrew Spencer, “Gleaning — A Guide to Christian Charity?” Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, January 10, 2013, http://blog.tifwe.org/guide-to-christian-charity/.

Bible Study

More
  • a saving faith

    A Saving Faith

    What does saving faith in Jesus Christ look like? The... Read more
  • What is the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

    What is the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible?

    Many people have found the Thompson Chain-Reference... Read more
  • Jesus: the Eternal Word

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word... Read more

Comfort

More
  • Contentment

    As humans, we are not often satisfied. That is because... Read more
  • Encounter God Through Journaling His Word

    Journaling your thoughts, insights, and prayers as you... Read more
  • Be Thankful for Jesus, the God-Man

    As we enter the season of Thanksgiving, only one... Read more

Devotional Reading Plans

More
  • a saving faith

    A Saving Faith

    What does saving faith in Jesus Christ look like? The... Read more
  • What is Scripture Engagement?

    Scripture Engagement is more than just a regular Bible... Read more
  • The Legacy of Studying God’s Word | NIV Verse Mapping Bibles

    Verse-mapping is a technique of studying the Bible... Read more

Prayer

More
  • A Top 100 Most-Asked Question About the Bible for the New Year

    Many people who read the Bible don't understand what... Read more
  • teach your children to pray for others

    Teach Your Children to Pray for Others

    This study from the NIV Adventure Bible can help you... Read more
  • Scripture Engagement Practice Picture It

    Scripture Engagement Practice: Picture It

    Picture it, one of the practices found in the abide... Read more

SpeakLight

More
  • Romans 8:28 SpeakLight Danny Gokey

    Romans 8:28 / #SpeakLight / Danny Gokey

    And we know that all things work together for good to... Read more
  • James 5:16 - Steven Malcolm

    James 5:16 / #SpeakLight / Steven Malcolm

    Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for... Read more
  • 2 corinthians 5:17 phil joel

    2 Corinthians 5:17 with Phil Joel

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new... Read more

Spiritual Growth

More
  • a saving faith

    A Saving Faith

    What does saving faith in Jesus Christ look like? The... Read more
  • Jesus: the Eternal Word

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word... Read more
  • who really was jesus

    Who really was Jesus?

    The author of the book of Hebrews explained, using... Read more

Topical Reading Plans

More
  • What is the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible

    What is the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible?

    Many people have found the Thompson Chain-Reference... Read more
  • who really was jesus

    Who really was Jesus?

    The author of the book of Hebrews explained, using... Read more
  • The Legacy of Studying God’s Word | NIV Verse Mapping Bibles

    Verse-mapping is a technique of studying the Bible... Read more