Leaving our gleanings

Daily Readings – Leviticus 23-25, Proverbs 7, Romans 11

“‘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. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’”

Leviticus 23:22

I grew up in a Christian home and always knew that I should set aside 10% of my income as a tithe to God. However, this concept of “leaving the gleanings of our harvest” was something I had never heard about until later on in life. The very first time I became aware of the concept of “leaving the gleanings of your harvest for the poor” it dramatically impacted the way I viewed my finances as a marketplace missionary.

There are multiple times in the Bible where tithing is mentioned. This is referring to the portion of our income that belongs to God. God was clear that we are called to give back that portion to him from the first fruits of our harvest. Throughout my life I always lumped the money I would donate to churches, missionaries, and other faith based organizations together with money I donated to other charities that were doing great work with the poor and marginalized in society, but not necessarily faith based organizations. I just assumed that together, those should make up 10%.

After all, caring for the poor was part of what Jesus commanded us to do.

I don’t think this is a bad way to think by any means. In fact, I think it is quite normal. Then I learned about this concept of our “gleanings” and that they are entirely separate from our tithing. It reshaped my thinking.

Our tithing is God’s money. I once heard a Christian comedian once say that giving this 10% to God isn’t actually giving, it is simply “not stealing”! That cracked me up. I love this mindset! It is so true. God has given us everything we have and simply asked that we set aside 10% for him. That portion we should set aside without thinking, because it belongs to God.

On top of our tithe God has also called us to help the poor. We are called to leave our gleanings for the poor, orphans, and widows. This is a concept also seen back in Leviticus 19:10 and then again in Deuteronomy 24:19 and Ruth 2:2, 15.

We live in an unbelievable era of prosperity. If we have been blessed with a solid income as a marketplace missionary, we have a responsibility to not only tithe, but to also leave our gleanings. We are called to help the poor as much as we can.

Jesus did not refer to a magical 10% number when talking about giving to the poor. We saw, back in Matthew 19, that he was far more radical than that.

When it comes to giving, this has been a guiding principle for me over the last few years. God gave me everything. “Giving” 10% back is just the starting point he has called us to. Beyond that we are also called to “leave the edges of our fields unharvested for the poor and marginalized”.

I love shifting the question of, “God, how much are you calling me to give?” over to, “God, how much are you allowing me to harvest? How much are you allowing me to keep?”

When we start with remembering that it all belongs to God, it makes setting aside our tithe along with leaving our gleanings a truly joyful event!

Thought to ponder

Where might God be calling me to “leave the gleanings of my harvest” and give that money to help the poor on top of my normal tithe?

Good and faithful servant!

Daily Readings: Exodus 19-20, Matthew 25

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” –Matthew 25:40

We have an amazing opportunity to make an impact with our finances. I am always amazed at just how far money is able to go when poured back into non-profits working throughout the world. When I see just how little it takes to provide clean water to a single person for a lifetime, feed someone for an entire year, or provide an education; it blows my mind. There is no shortage of needs that we have the ability to meet locally and abroad!

We are called, as marketplace missionaries, to maximize this impact we are able to have by reinvesting our blessings back into the kingdom by giving to those in need. So often though it is easy to allow the financial burdens of life to pile up to a level where it chokes out our ability to make an impact with the financial blessings we have been given. It is easy to say, “One day I will be in a position to give.”

At times in my life, where I have not been focused on building the Kingdom with my finances, money always seemed tight. It never felt like the right time. However, if you were to go line by line through where I chose to put my money at that time, you would see a $25 per month data plan on my cell phone, cable TV, eating out multiple times a week, lots of random miscellaneous $3-$5 items throughout the month that were purchased in response to a want and not a need, etc.

At a certain point in life my wife and I made the decision that we needed to give first. We needed to trust that God would provide, and if money was short, the things that needed to be cut was not the money that went to helping the poor and building God’s Kingdom.

Earlier in today’s reading, in Matthew 25:14-26, Jesus gave us a compelling story that illustrates how God views the gifts he has given us. This parable applies directly to how we use our finances and also how we use the time and abilities that God has gifted us with to advance his will here on earth.

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!’ So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

God has gifted each and every one of us with different abilities. Too often we find ourselves in the trap of comparing ourselves to others and thinking, “Why have they been given five bags of gold?”

God wants us focused on him and his Kingdom. He wants us asking, “How can I maximize these God given abilities? How can I give God, and his mission here on earth for my life, a maximum return on the investment of skills and abilities he has gifted me with? How can I return 2 times, 5 times, 10 times what he has given to me?”

He wants us giving of our time and finances with a joyful heart.

And then when we get to the end of our lives he will be able to greet us with a smile and say, “Well done good and faithful servant… For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

What an amazing day that will be indeed!

Thought to ponder

Where might God be calling me to be a better steward of my time, skills, or finances so that I can give God a maximum return on his investment in me?

Flipping over some tables

Daily Readings: Exodus 11-12, Psalm 22, Matthew 21

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”

-Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus was a passionate guy. Occasionally you hear people talk about Jesus you get the image of a much more serene, peaceful, laid back guy. It can be easy to focus purely on the moments of his ministry when he was sitting on the mountainside sharing nuggets of wisdom such as, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” This warm and fuzzy Jesus is a pretty easy guy to get behind. In our western world there is a temptation to water down Jesus into nothing more than a wise teacher who has some good quotes that overlay nicely onto a peaceful picture of a lake and put onto Pinterest.

There is no doubt that the core of the message of Jesus on earth is, love God and love others. Sometimes that message was delivered peacefully seated on a hill over a miraculous meal of fished and loaves.

But on occasion, it was time to turn over some tables.

It is important to have some context surrounding this passage today. Jesus had not yet paid the price for our sins once and for all and the Jewish culture was still operating under old system of sacrifices to atone for their sins. In Leviticus we will read about different animals that people brought to sacrifice to God in order to atone for different types of sins. In Leviticus 12:8 we read, “But if they cannot afford a lamb, then they shall take two turtledoves or two young pigeons…”

What was happening in the temple courts was merchants preying on the poor. Those folks who were too poor to have a lamb they could bring with them to sacrifice were being told they could not approach God to worship in the temple without a sacrifice and then being price gouged on doves. This place in the temple that was meant to be a place of prayer was being used to take advantage of the poor.

If you have been reading along with us in the Bible throughout Matthew you already know, Jesus is not a fan of people using their power to hurt the poor. We see throughout the gospel that the most passionate version of Jesus is when he is addressing those who would take advantage of the poor or those who are trying to puff themselves up as teachers of the law and making their position of religious leadership nothing more than a status symbol. When it comes to hypocrisy in leadership and hurting the poor, Jesus is ready to turn over some tables!

In the Christian church today there are so many church bodies that are getting this right. Their ministry is focused on serving the less fortunate and helping their congregation develop deeper levels of intimacy with God.

However, there are still lots of churches where this is not the case.

Over and over again throughout his time on earth, we see that Jesus has extreme compassion and patience with people who are simply lost and need to find their way to God. Jesus came to reach out with love to sinners who did not even realize they were living in sin. He was also always talking about serving the poor. If he was a politician on the campaign trail, those were he two central messages.

On the other hand, Jesus had very little patience for those who know God and are actively choosing to live a hypocritical life or for those who are in a position of power and choose to leverage that position to take advantage of the poor.

As missionaries in the marketplace, this is a huge opportunity for us to model our lives after Jesus. What would it look like today if Christians in the marketplace looked at companies and individuals that prey on the poor and were ready to turn over tables on their behalf? What would it look like if we, as a body of Christ, were more focused on this issue as opposed to some of the other sins that tend to monopolize the discussion in Christian circles today?

It is far easier to take a look at the lifestyle of folks who have not yet turned their lives over to Christ and condemn. Us verses them is a convenient belief system. It is simpler and emotionally easier. Jesus spent very little time doing that on earth, but greeted those people with love, and that love won many of them over.

When it came to taking advantage of the poor or supposed followers of God who said one thing and then did another…Jesus was walking in and flipping over tables.

I want faith like Jesus. I want extreme compassion for those lost sheep that are far from God and passionately pursue them for the kingdom. And when I see injustice towards society’s most vulnerable, I want the courage to flip over some tables.

Thought to ponder

If we look at the issues Jesus addressed on earth and the posture of his heart towards each, how closely in line with Jesus is our heart? How can we better advocate for those who need advocates against those who would do the opposite?

As always, thank you for reading! Your comments are a constant source of encouragement. If you think this post would be a help or encouragement to someone else, feel free to share it!

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