” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God….”
— Leviticus 19:9-10
Deuteronomy 24:19-21, Luke 12:13-21, Ruth Ch. 2
I wanted to write down some thoughts on giving based on some Scripture that you might not have been aware of in the past, and ones that aren’t normally used whenever we talk about God’s commands to give. In Leviticus 19:9-10, right in the middle of a bunch of sacrificial, dietary and personal conduct laws, God tells the Israelites not to cut the corners of their fields. They were also not to pick all their grapes when they harvested, but were to leave some for the poor and alien. In both cases, they were to leave some of the excess for the poor, aliens, and the widows. The people who had more would take care of the people who had less.
If you read the story of Ruth, especially chapter two, you will see how this plays out in real life in Israel. Those that had nothing were allowed to go in behind the harvesters and pick up what they could to help them through their lean times.
If you closely read the Leviticus and Deuteronomy passages, you will notice that God didn’t specify how much of their corners to leave or how many grapes to not pick up. He didn’t give an exact size or amount. He just said, “don’t cut the corners”. You could tell how generous a man was by the size of the corners of his field. You could leave little corners and still be in compliance with the law or you could round them off big and wide and leave a huge amount in the field. The size of a man’s heart was determined by the size of his corners. A person’s generosity was very public and was on display for the whole community to see. Big field, little corners, “he’s stingy”; little field, big corners, “he’s a generous man”. You can tell from the Ruth story that Boaz was a generous man. He was willing to share his plenty with the aliens and widows.
What does God want us to learn from this command not to cut the corners of our fields? How does this corner cutting apply to us city dwellers and non-farmers? First, listen to 1 Timothy 6:17-19. Then listen to II Corinthians 9:6-7 (and read the rest of chapter 9, and read also chapter 8 where generosity is encouraged). If you examine these verses and all the cross-references that go with them, you start to realize that God has established a very important concept here that plays a huge part in our Christian walk. It is obvious that he wants us to be generous, but why and how?
The first part of the why is answered by Deuteronomy 8:10-18 and Deuteronomy 26:1-12. He wants us to be constantly reminded that it is God who provides all our needs and not our power or the strength of our hands. God is the source of our blessings, not our hard work (Psalm 127:1-3). We are taught in America to be rugged individualists, self-sufficient, self-made men. This is a tough concept for us to realize that it is not ours to keep and hold on to. We are taught to “get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the lid and poison the rest”. The Bible teaches the opposite; not to put our hope in our wealth, our possessions, our retirement plan etc. , “but to put our hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17).
The second part of the why is found in Malachi 3:6-12. Being generous in giving is God’s plan to take care of the less fortunate. If we are not giving and being generous, we are keeping God’s plan from working. We’re not supposed to hold on to it! We are robbing God if we don’t give generously. To sum up why God wants to give; 1)we need to be constantly reminded that he is providing for us and it’s not ours to keep and 2) the less fortunate need what we are supposed to give because that’s how his system works. If we don’t give we are keeping the system from working.
How do we apply “cutting the corners of our field” to our everyday life? In your business, make your corners big. Share with the people who work with you. Realize that God has allowed you to make a profit and the people who work with you are counting on your generosity to survive and also be blessed. Another avenue to having big corners is in the area of tipping. Be generous as you recognize the need in the people that serve you and wait on you in your daily life.
Another way to apply this principle is to tell your children how much you give and what you give to. If you want to teach them to be generous, show them how generous you are. If you want to raise stingy kids, be stingy yourself. Teaching your children well is a huge part of making sure God’s principles are kept in motion.
What an exciting lesson to learn! To learn to be a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:6-13) is one of life’s greatest blessings! Make the corners of your field big! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure (Luke 6:38). You will be a huge blessing and will be hugely blessed in the process. God has made us a deal we can’t refuse. In Malachi 3:10 God says try me and see if I won’t throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you won’t have enough room for it! Today would be a great day to start leaving those big corners! Are you ready for the blessing? Amen!