E. Calvin Beisner: Gleaning Today

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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. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:9-10

“Charity does not always mean giving something for nothing. Individuals’ charitable giving, just like churches’, needs to be governed by the four principles connected with gleaning: (1) if they are able, recipients should work in return for their aid; (2) giving should be privately controlled and as direct as possible so that givers can know well the needs of recipients; (3) givers should distinguish worthy from unworthy recipients (2 Thessalonians 3:10); (4) the main goal of charitable gifts should be to meet basic survival and health needs. Private givers need to be as careful as churches not to foster dependency or pander to sloth or prodigality in recipients. At the same time, they need to be ready to give generously where needs are real and recipients are willing to do all they can to comply with biblical patterns for living.

The early Christians took their responsibility to care for poor fellow believers so seriously that they were even willing to sell houses and lands to do it (Acts 4:32-37). Though no one would have excused taking another’s property without permission by appealing to the needs of the poor, still believers considered their property entrusted to them by God for the good of the whole Body of Christ (Acts 2:44-46). Their great generosity contributed to the credibility of the gospel so that preaching was fruitful (Acts 2:47), confirming Christ’s prediction, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).”

E. Calvin Beisner in Prosperity and Poverty: The Compassionate Use of Resources in a World of Scarcity (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2001) 222-223.

In developing countries like the Philippines where there is much poverty, Beisner’s four points provide a solid summary for structuring assistance of the poor in accord with God’s design for gleaning today. As we have discussed in class in plain terms, we must not merely give hand-outs that result foster dependency but hand-ups that build disciples. In so doing we position the poor to contribute to their own flourishing.

Of course, the Good Samaritan provides us a snapshot of this (Luke 10:25-37). He was keen to the needs of those around him. He stopped what he was doing and inconvenienced himself to assess the situation. He contributed time and money to help the hurting man get back on his feet, and he promised to return to see to his full restoration. Jesus instructs us to go and do likewise. That’s my prayer for my ATS students as our class draws to a close: that they will go forth like Good Samaritans!

Over the next week, I will do a series of seminars on governance, faithful administration, and resource development for ministries like Center for Community Transformation (CCT). CCT is known across the Philippines for providing aid that aligns with this biblical design. Check out their website to see an example of an organization whose work transforms the lives of the poor and shapes entire communities for our Lord Jesus Christ in a manner that does not create dependencies but rather builds disciples.