It is vital, in this age which has disregarded God’s Word as the basis for our civil laws, to return again and again to the surpassing greatness of God’s will as revealed in Mosaic Law. We cannot improve upon God’s ordinances for how society should form laws and policies.
Now, of course we must point out that Christ’s fulfilling the law of Moses did not abrogate the moral requirements of the law. Rather, what was revealed was that earning salvation through law-keeping was exposed as the ultimate breaking of the law. Thus, we should still look to the Mosaic law for ordering a society according to God’s holy law, with the Gospel of Christ being proclaimed as the only hope of eternal salvation.
One law that is pertinent in our current economic climate is Leviticus 19:9-10, which reads, “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.”
Here we have a requirement that private business and commerce take the poor into consideration. The Bernie Sanders crowd might be nodding along saying, “Right on!” To which I’d reply, “not so fast, commies.” Socialist jokes are only funny if everyone gets them, after all. The text before us certainly appears to command that private businesses invest in charity. But before all the Millennials lift up a cry of joy that the 1% is gonna get what’s coming to them, we should notice a vital detail of this command.
The businessman is prohibited from reaping the corners, going over the field a second time, or harvesting every last grape. In essence, in his profits he must make allowance for mercy. But we must not miss the fact that the businessman is not commanded to dip into his harvest and hand it over to the government for them to disburse in so many welfare programs. He is to provide a means whereby the poor might be able to work with their own hands to provide for their own needs. He is not commanded to give handouts––or underwrite government welfare checks through inordinately high tax rates––but he is to ensure that if the poor want to work, there is opportunity.
Now, of course, as a God-fearing man, he will gladly give to those in need, like we see Boaz doing for Ruth (giving her a generous supply of grain from his harvest). However, this law is not a mandate for businessmen to––under government compulsion––write a check to support the living wage of the impoverished. He is commanded to make sure that if the poor want to work, there is room for the poor in his business. A modern illustration of this might be that a successful business owner makes sure that he budgets to be able to pay an impoverished single-mother a generous wage to clean the office. However, the law here is that the businessman is tasked to ensure that the poor can work with their own hands to earn their own living off of his successful harvest.
So, this law was not aimed at penalizing the landowner. Rather, it was intended as a means whereby the landowner might exercise mercy without compulsion. This law didn’t delineate a certain percentage of the corners of his field which couldn’t be harvest. Rather, he was commanded simply to make sure that the poor could glean sustenance from his harvest.
True charity looks like opportunity for the poor.True charity looks like opportunity for the poor. We often think that charity means giving something for nothing to the poor. However, this levitical practice seems to set up the poor for being able to learn a trade, while supplying for their daily needs, and if they showed competency the landowner may hire them to work in their field.
Of course, none of this hinders a God-fearing businessman from giving “something for nothing” to the poor, and in fact that is one of the most common features of godly businessmen is their generosity. We ought not to think that wealth = greed. It certainly can. But the poor (and more often the advocates of the poor) are those who are most infected with envy and greed. This provision in the Mosaic law ensures that both parties (the rich and the poor) are shielded against the sin of greed.
The businessman is reminded of his obligation to provide opportunity for the poor to work, and the poor are given a means whereby they might work hard for their own livelihood. The poor are spared the shame of needing to beg, and also delivered from the talons of government programs which need the poor to justify their existence. The businessman is afforded a means of showing charity and mercy. The rich and the poor work out the details of charity together, and none of this is administered or enforced by the government.