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?

Where are we storing our treasure?

Daily Readings – Exodus 7-8, Psalm 20, Matthew 19

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.”

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

-Matthew 19:16-26

Most people in today’s modern world read this passage in Matthew 19 and choose to mainly focus on the last verse and interpret it to mean the phrase “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” to mean:

“Don’t worry about that whole financial piece of the puzzle, following me is enough. With God, all things are possible, including entering Heaven while hoarding money here on earth.”

It is possible that is what he meant. However, what if he actually meant, “With God all things are possible. I will give you the strength, courage, and faith to give away most of what you earn to further my kingdom here on earth if you will trust that your needs will always be met”?

Jesus was not overly subtle throughout his time on earth about how he would prefer that we use our finances. Back in Matthew 6:19-21, 24 we also saw Jesus say, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

This idea that we cannot serve both God and money is not a side thought for Jesus. It is a reoccurring theme.

This can be one of the great tensions for marketplace missionaries in our modern culture. There are so many lost sheep that God wants us to go after in the marketplace. God needs missionaries in the marketplace. The result of being a marketplace missionary can frequently result in us earning a good income. That is not an inherently evil thing. In fact, the ability to earn a great living is a blessing. God has built many of us to earn incredible incomes…to give away. There is an amazing amount of good we can do in the world through the financial blessings we are given.

So, how are we to treat our wealth as Christians? Do we tithe 10%? Do we give most of it away? Where is the line exactly?

There could be entire books written on this single topic alone. I am not going to tell you how to interpret the Bible’s teaching on your finances, but I would encourage you to give that decision to God and not society. I would encourage you to spend serious time in prayer surrounding this topic and with all major financial decisions in your life. I would urge people to reframe the question, “How much should I give away?” to “How much is God allowing me to keep?” If we start with the basic premise that all of this wealth is God given and it is our job to be good stewards of this wealth to further his kingdom, our hearts will be better aligned to give in accordance with God’s will and not our own.

For me throughout my life a good litmus test for whether I am focused on serving God or serving money has been this: If I set concrete financial goals for a given year in my career, how do I choose to allocate those funds if I hit that goal? Am I more excited by what hitting that goal will mean for my own long-term financial future, the next item I can treat myself to, or the next cool experience that money can buy? Or am I more excited by what that extra income could do to further God’s kingdom here on earth? Am I more motivated by the additional ministries that money can fund? It is not inherently sinful to use a portion of the wealth God has blessed you with on fun experiences with your loved ones, but is that our primary focus? Or is our primary focus with our finances kingdom building and occasionally we do those fun things when we feel God prompting us to?

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I want my heart to be with God. I want my eyes focused on him. I want to use the financial blessings he puts in my life to better the lives of those around me that are not as fortunate and to further God’s kingdom here on earth.

The world constantly tugs at me in the other direction.

So, what goals do we have with our finances? Where are we storing up our treasure?

Jesus told us directly what his will is. He also told us that, with God all things are possible, including changing our heart towards our own finances and trusting him with those decisions. Today I will choose to view that truth with a great sense of delight and excitement and not as a burden. God, where are you calling me to store my treasure in this season of my life?

Thought to ponder

What excites you most when thinking about your financial goals? Where might God be calling you to store up your treasure?

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