Generosity to the Needy 

"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God." Lev 23:22

The Law of gleaning directed the Israelites to leave some of the harvest in the fields for the poor, so that the poor would have something to eat for the year. At first this seems wasteful, as they could not know whether wild animals or the poor people would get the food. Further, they could not know who was collecting the food, whether they were those who were genuinely in need or those who were too careless to work and lazed around depending on such free giving of food. But that is just the point here.

Those who have property and are well to do have a God-given responsibility to see that the poor in their community have food to eat. They are not to look at the merit of the people who are benefitting from this practice, but to just make it available for them.

How does this apply today? While it does not warrant irresponsible giving, which was discouraged by the early church in passages like 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, it does put an onus on those who have the means of production to provide for those who do not and who, for a variety of reasons, cannot work. If this is a God-given responsibility we need to take it seriously and see how best this can be practised in the area where we live and worship.

Most of these regulations apply to the community of believers we belong to. When we give to individuals within the community we check if they merit help. But we do make allowances for the fact that we have not had the psychological damage they have had that prevents them from working, and so are not too critical. On the other hand, we also give to groups who work with the poor and the destitute without looking at the merit of each recipient of their largesse.

To be able to do this, we need to recognize that the returns we obtain on investments are meant to be shared with the community and do not belong to us for our benefit alone. Once we recognize this, we will be able to take a fair decision on how much to give back to the community. This is the thinking behind CSR schemes around the world.

Whom have you helped in their poverty in the recent past?