“Gleaning” is an agricultural tradition. We did this often earlier in our marriage when we lived in the fruitful Red River Valley bordering Minnesota and North Dakota. Area farmers would call us up and let us know that the potato fields were harvested or the sweet corn was finished picking. We’d load up the kids, a few laundry baskets, and gather an abundance.
We remember fondly some nights where the entire meal was corn-on-the-cob or french fries. Mmmm, we were flat broke in those days, but the eating was still good! God provided through this largely-unknown practice of gleaning.
Simply put, gleaning is sharing in the overabundance of mass production. The farmers in Northern Minnesota were distributing potatoes nationwide. The potatoes left over in the field were just as good as the potatoes at the supermarket. We very much appreciated it.
Gleaning has spiritual roots. Check out these Old Testament verses:
- 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 foreigner. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:9-10. Lev. 23:22 says essentially the same thing.)
- When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. (Deuteronomy 24:19)
- When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. (Deuteronomy 24:20)
Most city supermarkets allow people to come in early in the morning or late at night and glean food that would normally be thrown away. We used to be involved in one in Colorado Springs. We worked with a coordinated group who related with supermarkets to help distribute food to families in need. We were very grateful for the help this food provided.
We see little shameful from gleaning leftovers from the vibrance of an economy from which everyone — including the poor — participate. Though finances are tight for families nowadays, we encourage families to stay off government assistance (see previous post “Four Thoughts on Government Assistance“). While federal assistance is receiving funds from the taxation of an unproductive government, gleaning is the receiving of the overabundance — freely and generously given — from productive business. Gleaning is an alternative that we see little shame in.
What are your thoughts on gleaning?