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 (Lev. 19:9-10).

I have already covered certain aspects of gleaning in Tools of Dominion.(1) I think it is appropriate to reprint the bulk of that material in this chapter (though not in the same order), since readers may not have easy access to Tools of Dominion.

The theocentric principle that undergirds this law is this: God shows grace to man in history by allowing mankind access to the fruit of God's field, His creation. Put another way, God allows mankind inside the boundaries of His field. Fallen man is in the position of the poverty-stricken, landless Israelite or stranger. God does not exclude externally cursed mankind from access to the means of life in history. Neither were land owners in post-conquest Mosaic Israel to exclude the economically poor and judicially excluded residents of the land.

Gleaning was a form of morally compulsory charity. It remains the primary moral model for biblical charity, but, as I hope to show, it is not a literal model for modern charity. Most men today live in a non-agricultural society. Perhaps this may change someday, perhaps during a temporary economic or military apocalypse, but life is primarily urban today. In a non-agricultural society, gleaning cannot become a literal model for charity. Morally, however, gleaning is to be our guideline for charity: those in the community who have been called in the West "the deserving poor" are to be allowed to do hard work in order to support themselves and improve their condition. God expects the more successful members of a community to provide economic opportunities for such willing laborers -- opportunities for service.

As with every biblical law, this law is ultimately theocentric. The beneficiaries of this law were God's representatives in history, just as victims of crimes are representatives of God. Crime is primarily an assault on God by means of a crime against man, who is made in God's image.(2) Crime is man's attempt to bring unlawful negative sanctions against God by bringing them against one of His representatives. Charity is analogous to crime in this respect, but with this difference: the sanctions are both lawful and positive. Jesus warned of the words of God at the final judgment:

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matt. 25:32-40).

A Lawful Claim: Moral or Legal?

God announced that the poor people and resident aliens in Israel were to be invited in by the land owner so that they could harvest the corners of the field and the fallen grain. This meant that as a class, they had a moral claim on the "droppings" of production. This also meant that they had no legal claim on the primary sources of income of an agricultural community. They were invited in. There was no State-financed welfare in Israel.

It would have been difficult for a judge or a jury to identify which individuals in the community had the legal right to bring charges against the land owner as the legal victims of his refusal to honor the gleaning laws. The text specifies no negative institutional sanction that had to be imposed on a land owner who refused to honor the gleaning laws. God is indirectly revealed as the agent who would bring negative sanctions against a land owner who refused to honor the gleaning laws. The State was not authorized by the text to bring these sanctions. This implies that the sanctions were individual rather than corporate. God did not threaten the community with negative sanctions. But without the threat of God's negative sanctions against the whole covenanted community, there was no justification for civil sanctions. Civil sanctions were imposed in Israel in order to substitute the State's subordinate wrath for God's more direct wrath against the community. Furthermore, in case of a violation of the gleaning law, there would have been no easy way to determine legitimate restitution. Where there are no civil sanctions, there is no crime.

Were the sanctions implied by the general legal precept of victim's rights?(3) It is difficult to imagine the basis by which appropriate sanctions could be devised by the civil judges. Lex talionis ("eye for eye")? The land owner had inflicted no damage on the poor person. Double restitution? Double what? How much could the potential gleaner have gleaned from the field? How many local potential gleaners could sue? All of them? Did each of them have a lawful claim against the land owner, no matter how small his fields? There was no way predictably to assess restitution.

Without predictable negative sanctions, there is no legitimate biblical role for civil government. The State's monopoly of violence is too great a threat to freedom, too great a temptation for those who would play God. The civil government had no jurisdiction over gleaning in the Mosaic economy.

Individual Sanctions Against Disobedience

God instructed owners to allow poor people to glean. This land was His (Lev. 25:23); the whole earth is His (Ex. 19:5; Ps. 24:1). As the permanent owner, God can tell His stewards how to administer His property. But God is the disciplining agent. He acts either as Kinsman-Redeemer or as Blood Avenger, depending on the legal status of the land owner. The law is in the form of a positive injunction, and biblical civil law is negative in scope: forbidding public evil. The priests, not the civil magistrate, would have had the responsibility of enforcing this law.(4)

Because God is the ultimate sanctions-bringer, and because it is difficult to specify the precise nature of the harm and the precise size of the restitution payment owed, the implication is that God would bring a curse against the owner, but the text does not say this. The further implication is that God would bring the curse of poverty against the harvester who attempted to cheat the poor by taking from the corner of the field or by picking up whatever had fallen to the ground. God would see what was being done, and He would assess an appropriate penalty.

So, the gleaning law was morally compulsory, but it was not clearly part of the Israelite civil code. Without a specified negative civil sanction or without a way for the judges to assess damages, no law could be part of the nation's civil code. But the law was part of God's law code. He would bring negative sanctions against the individual land owner. The civil code of Israel assumed that God is the sanctions-bringer in history and eternity, and therefore it was not regarded as foundational to civil society that the civil code legislate against every evil in history. The State was therefore not seen as messianic. This is no longer the case in the modern humanist world, where belief in the God of the Bible is not regarded as the public foundation of social order. The State today is seen by most people as the only relevant sanctions-bringer in history; thus, evil is defined as anything the State prohibits. On the other hand, all crimes are regarded as crimes against society. Criminals are expected to "pay their debt to society," meaning the State. They supposedly owe nothing to the individual victims.(5)

Bread and Wine

This law applied specifically to the field and the vineyard. It did not apply to any occupation except agriculture. It specifically speaks of the harvest, which indicates grain, and it also identifies grapes. This should alert us immediately to the symbolic point of reference, namely, the main products of grain and grapes: bread and wine. The sources of the two foods that God invites us to eat with Him in the holy meal of the church are identified here as being under the authority of the gleaning law. This law pointed forward in time to the grace of the New Covenant. It had eschatological implications. It established as holy -- judicially set apart -- the ground that produces the two holy foods of the communion meal of the New Testament.

The communion meal is holy in the New Covenant era. The land of Canaan was holy in the Mosaic Covenant. That is to say, a holy meal is judicially set apart by God today, just as a holy land was judicially set apart in the Mosaic Covenant. This is why there were judicial limits placed on the applicability of the gleaning law. The gleaning law identified the special boundaries of God. These boundaries were historically unique. This is why we must be careful to avoid extending the gleaning law to areas that it did not cover in the Mosaic Covenant.

There is another consideration. In the Bible, there is an eschatological movement from the garden to the city. Genesis 2 begins in a garden. The tree of life is in the garden. Revelation 20 and 21 end in a city. This city has the tree of life in its midst (Rev. 22:2). We see a fusion of the city and the garden in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation.(6) In the Mosaic Covenant, we see a greater emphasis on rural life than we see in the New Covenant, but the New Covenant does not exclude the imagery of the garden.(7) The law of gleaning was an aspect of this earlier social order.

The question is: Do the terms of this law still apply in the New Covenant? To answer this, we first need to know the extent of gleaning in the Mosaic Covenant era.

The Economics of Gleaning: Who Paid, Who Benefitted?

What were the economics of the gleaning law? In a sense, the requirement that the land owner and professional harvesters leave a small portion of the crop for the gleaners made this portion analogous to the manna that God had supplied to the Israelites during the wilderness wandering. That miraculous though predictable food was a pure gift of God. Similarly, both the produce of the land and God's grace in establishing the requirement that the land owners and harvesters share with the gleaners were signs of God's continuing grace to the poor. The gleaners were visibly dependent on God's grace for their survival. This had also been the case for the whole nation in the wilderness.

Gleaning laws were exclusively agricultural laws. God commanded the harvesters of the field and the vineyard to be wasteful -- wasteful in terms of their personal goals, but efficient in terms of God's goals. They were to leave part of the produce of both the vineyard and the grain field for gathering by the poor.

This law indicates that the leftovers of the Promised Land belonged to God. God transferred the ownership of these high harvesting cost economic assets from the land owner and the harvester to the poor and the stranger. The owner in one sense did benefit, at least those owners who paid their field hands wages rather than by the supply harvested, i.e., piece-rate payment. The obedient owner did not have to pay salaried harvesters to collect marginal pickings. This lowered his labor cost per harvested unit of crop. But the net income loss as a result of gleaning did lower his return from his land and planting expenses. There is no doubt that this economic loss of net revenue constituted a form of compulsory charity. It was a mandated positive sanction. This should alert us to the fact that this law was not a civil law. It was rather a church-enforced law. The church, not the State, is to bring positive sanctions in history. The church offers Holy Communion, not the State.

The gleaning law was also to some extent an advantage to the piece-rate harvester because he was able to achieve greater output per unit of time invested. He was not expected to spend time gathering the marginal leftovers of the crop. Marginal returns on his labor invested were higher than they would have been had it not been for this law. Nevertheless, both the owner of the land and the piece-rate harvesters did suffer a loss of total income because of this law. The harvesters saved time but gathered less. They did suffer a loss of income compared to what they would have earned apart from this law.

How did piece-rate harvesters suffer a loss of total income? Because they could not lawfully gather the total crop of the field or the vineyard. Each worker had to leave some produce behind, which means that his income suffered. This also means that the poor of the community were in part funded by the slightly less poor: the piece-rate harvesters. The harvesters were reminded of the burdens of poverty. This in effect became an unemployment insurance program for the harvesters. They knew that if they later fell into poverty, they would probably be allowed to participate as gleaners sometime in the future. They forfeited some income in the present, but they did so in the knowledge that in a future crisis, they would be able to gain income from gleaning. Both the land owner and the piece-rate worker financed a portion of this compulsory insurance program.

Benefits for the Land Owner

The law placed a burden on the landowner. Yet this burden was in fact a form of liberation if he acknowledged the covenantal nature of the expenditure. It was analogous to the tithe. By honoring it, he was acknowledging God's sovereign ownership of his land. This act of sharing placed him visibly in the service of the great King. That King was his protector, for he was a vassal. As with rest on the sabbath, the owner could rest confidently in the knowledge that the King would defend his interests as a vassal if he abided by the terms of the King's treaty.

There was another benefit to the faithful owner, according to Aaron Wildavsky, one of the most informed experts in the world on the history of taxation.(8) He was also a student of the Mosaic law. He wrote of the gleaning law that "Compulsiveness easily converts to fanaticism. The farmer who harvests not 99 percent of his crop but every last little bit becomes consumed by his compulsion. Soon enough excess -- getting it all -- becomes an overwhelming passion."(9) He quite properly identifies fanaticism as idolatry.(10) The gleaning law restrained the idolatry of greed. It reminded rich men that they did not need to keep everything they managed as God's stewards in order to remain successful. It restrained them from the passion of autonomous man: defining themselves in terms of their wealth rather than their obedience to God.

Hard Work

The gleaner had to work harder than the average worker did in order to gain the same quantity of crops. The "easy pickings" were gone by the time the gleaner was allowed into the fields. This means that he had high marginal labor costs. That is, he had to invest more labor per unit of crop harvested than the piece-rate harvester did. Assuming that the harvester's goal was a higher return on labor invested, it was preferable to be a piece-rate worker than to be a gleaner. To be a gleaner was to be in a nearly desperate condition.

In the case of both piece-rate work and gleaning, most of the labor costs of harvesting were borne by the poor. The rich man did not work in the fields. But there were degrees of poverty. By far, the greater cost per unit harvested was borne by the gleaners. In modern terminology, this might be called a workfare program instead of a welfare program. The gleaner was not a passive recipient of someone else's money. He had to work. Furthermore, marketing costs may actually have been borne by the poor. It would have been legal for the poor individual to take whatever pickings he gained from the field and go to a store owner or other purchaser of the crop. The owner of the land did not have the right to compel the gleaner to sell the gleanings to him. This means that the gleaner was enabled to obtain a competitive market price for the output of his labor. Of course, this would have been extra work and risk for the gleaner, and it involved specialized knowledge of markets. Nevertheless, it was a right that the gleaner possessed.

The poor were invited into the unharvested fields only in the sabbatical year (Lev. 25:4-6). They had to earn every bit of the produce they collected. It was not a chosen profession for sluggards. But for those who were willing to work, they would not perish at the hands of men who systematically used their competitive advantage to create a permanent class of the poor.

There was another great advantage to this form of morally enforced charity: it brings hard-working, efficient poor people to the attention of potential employers. There is always a market for hard-working, efficient, diligent workers. Such abilities are the product of a righteous worldview and a healthy body, both of which are gifts of God. It always pays employers to locate such people and hire them. In effect, employers in Mosaic Israel could "glean" future workers from society's economic "leftovers." Gleaning appears initially to be a high-risk system of recruiting, for it required land owners to forfeit the corners of their fields and one year's productivity in seven. Nevertheless, God promises to bless those who obey Him. Gleaning really was not a high-risk system. Israel's gleaning system made charity local, work-oriented, and a source of profitable information regarding potential employees. Thus, the system offered hope to those trapped in poverty. They could escape this burden through demonstrated productivity. This is how Ruth, a stranger in the land, began her escape: she caught the attention of Boaz (Ruth 2:5).

More Food for Everyone

Under this system of charity, more of the crop got harvested than would otherwise have been the case. Professional harvesters entered the field first and got the easy pickings. The labor time of the professional harvester was devoted to the high-yield sections of the field or vineyard. This was economically efficient. Skilled harvesters devoted a greater portion of their time to the high-yield sections of the land.

Furthermore, it was difficult for the owner to police this charity law as it applied to the harvesters. How could he watch every harvester to see that he really did leave the fallen grain on the ground? This is why the harvesters were required by God to exercise self-restraint in the amount of the crop that they harvested. They had to leave behind some leftovers. But there was an economic incentive for them to do this. Their time would be spent more productively by gathering the easy pickings. This means that a greater percentage of the crop would have been harvested under the gleaning law, for two reasons. First, the harvesters would have tended to harvest a larger percentage of the crop, hour for hour, than the gleaners did. Second, the gleaners were highly dependent on this food. This means that they would have exercised great diligence and care to strip the field of any remaining grain after the professional harvesters had done their work.(11) This was a benefit for the community as a whole, since the community gained access to a larger quantity of food. There was less waste of the crop in the aggregate because of the marginal waste that was imposed by God's law on the land owners and the piece-rate harvesters.

There were also higher costs with this system. The extra labor expended by the inefficient gleaners was a true cost. The labor time of the gleaners could have been used to produce other products. The net economic return of the products and services that gleaners would otherwise have produced was the cost to consumers of the greater supply of food. The gleaning system did subsidize food production at the expense of other products. We shall consider the reasons for this later in this chapter. Suffice it to say here that the reason for this subsidy was connected with the accent on decentralization and localism that the land ownership system of Old Covenant Israel fostered.

Why weren't these poor people hired to harvest the crop in the first place? What was wrong with them? Answer: they were not the most efficient harvesters in the community. They were high-cost employees. But God wanted these people to learn how to work. He wanted them to become better servants. So, He set up a system that subsidized them as field laborers. This was the simplest work skill to learn, though not the most productive. They had to start at the bottom of the scale, since their skills had put them so far at the bottom that they were outside of the labor force. They had to become the lowest-paid field hands in the community.

Wealth from Outside the System

We must be careful to distinguish total benefits from net benefits. If this system of compulsory charity was productive of net benefits on its own, then we should expect to see this same gleaning law in force in New Testament times. We do not find this, however. So, are we to conclude that this system was economically productive then but not today? Do economic laws change? Do we find that by ignoring this law today, and allowing land owners to harvest all of their crops, the community is richer, yet by obeying this law, Israel was richer than it would have been if it had not obeyed? This is a dilemma for the Christian economist.

Part of the answer is found in Leviticus 26, where God's positive sanctions are promised to the nation if the people obey Him. The economic order was not autonomous. The economist would say that the system was not endogenous. It was exogenous. Something from outside the economy added wealth to it: God's grace. The required charity in the Mosaic Covenant that was tied to the land itself was based on the special relation that God had with both the land and the people. This relation to the land was changed at the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. There had been preliminary alterations centuries before this, such as the post-exilic law that strangers in the land could inherit as part of the jubilee law (Ezek. 47:22-23).

When God ceases to require obedience to a particular law, the grace (net benefit) attached to that law disappears. Thus, the land owner today can harvest all of his crop and not suffer God's negative sanctions (net losses) in history. He need not adhere to the gleaning law. The community is not harmed. As techniques of modern agricultural production change and net output increases, the increase of food production more than compensates for the loss of the older system and its net benefits. Costs per harvested plot of ground drop, and output per harvested plot increases. The free market in agriculture does not harm the community.

In the Promised Land, however, the special relation between God and the land led to higher output of food when this law of gleaning was honored. There were net benefits to the community based on obedience to this law. But this law was not intended to be permanent. It was also not intended to be universal. This law applied only in the land of Israel because it applied only to the land of Israel and those who owned and worked it. As we shall see in the next two sections, this restriction was due to two factors: 1) the tribal basis of land ownership in Old Covenant Israel; 2) the judicial designation of the land as God's agent of judgment.

The Two-fold Basis of the Law of Gleaning

1. Subsidizing Localism

Is becoming a low-paid field hand God's universally required on-the-job training system? No. God no longer expects poor people to learn how to become field laborers. In Old Covenant Israel, however, it was important that men learn to serve Him locally. He wanted to preserve localism and tribalism. The tribal system was important for the preservation of freedom in Israel. Tribalism and localism broke down attempts to centralize the nation politically. Thus, the gleaning law was part of the social order associated with Old Covenant Israel. It reinforced the tribal system. It also reinforced rural life at the expense of urban life -- one of the few Mosaic laws to do so. The land owner was required by God to subsidize the rural way of life. Local poor people were offered subsidized employment on the farms. Had it not been for the gleaning system, the only alternatives would have been starvation or beggary in the country. They would have moved to the cities, as starving people all over the world do today.

The jubilee land inheritance laws kept rural land within the Israelite family. This land inheritance was the mark of civil freemanship for every tribe except the Levites. If a daughter inherited land because there was no brother, she could not marry outside her tribe if she wanted to keep the land. "Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance" (Num. 36:9). While a rich man might move permanently to a city, the poor person was encouraged by the gleaning law to stay closer to home.

Cities would inevitably have become the primary dwelling places for most Israelites if they had obeyed God as a nation. Population growth would have forced most people into the cities. The size of family farms would have shrunk as each generation inherited its portion of the land. But until Israel's corporate covenantal faithfulness led to population growth and increased per capita wealth, each tribe's poor members were to be subsidized by the gleaning law to remain close to the tribe's food supplies. This law was a means of retarding the growth of an unemployed urban proletariat. The countryside was to be the place where the poor man received his daily bread. He would have to do simple agricultural labor to receive his food.

Localism vs. Bureaucracy

The locus of both the enforcement and the concern of the gleaning law was local and tribal. Local people were the ones who gleaned the fields. This showed God's concern for tribal brethren in the local community. It also showed His concern for the strangers in the land who were willing to live under His laws. They, too, were local residents.

Why this concern with localism? Because biblical social order is supposed to reflect the cosmic personalism of the creation.(12) Personalism is the antithesis of bureaucracy. So is localism. Biblical law works against the creation of large bureaucracies. So does localism. Biblical law establishes primary responsibility at the local level. It is based on an appeals court system that begins at the local level (Ex. 18). Bureaucracies lodge initiatory authority at the top, where the common rule book sets forth what is to be done, how, when, and under which conditions. Social coordination is supposed to be achieved through a detailed coordinated rule book. Local initiative thwarts the coordinated application of the rule book's rules.

Charity is not a profit-seeking activity. It is not governed by the market's system of matching supply with demand through the entrepreneur's profit motive. Charity is not restrained by the requirements of a profit-and-loss statement, although it is restrained by the supply of available funds. Without the restraining factor of the profit-and-loss statement, the administration of charity needs other formal guidelines for appropriate action. It needs a book of order. Charities are inherently bureaucratic: governed by the book, not by the free market; by the donor, not the consumer.(13)

All bureaucracies have to be managed "by the book," and the book's standards are inherently impersonal. The larger the bureaucracy is, and the more distant its headquarters are, the more general and therefore the more impersonal the book. Bureaucracies tend to become more impersonal as they grow. Localism is necessary to overcome at least partially the inherent move toward bureaucracy in all non-profit management systems.(14) Mosaic localism was designed to be highly personalistic.

Because biblical civil law places negative sanctions on specific public actions, it allows freedom to do anything else. Men know in advance what is prohibited. This legal code is the only lawful, formal civil restraint on the public actions of men. Everything else is allowed by the civil government. We see this principle in operation most clearly in the garden of Eden. Adam was permitted to do anything except eat from one tree. In contrast, a perfectly bureaucratic social order allows only what the ever-growing law book permits. This requirement strangles individual initiative. People are forever having to ask permission from a bureaucrat -- a person who is motivated above all by the fear of making a mistake, a person governed by a book of human laws, many of them conflicting. Thus, his instinctive answer to all requests is no. He can always retreat from no, and everyone will be happy. He cannot retreat from yes and make the requester happy. This system is the antithesis of personal responsibility under God, who says yes unless there is a good reason to say no. The steady extension of civil bureaucracy into market affairs is therefore the antithesis of biblical dominion.

No Subsidy for Evil

Another important reason for localism was the concern of God that His resources not be used for evil purposes. Either the provider of this agricultural charity had to reside locally or else his specified agent had to. Local residents in rural Mosaic Israel were more likely to be well known to the land owners. Presumably, the cause of their poverty was also well known to the land owners, or at least this could be discovered without much difficulty. The gleaning system reduced the subsidy of evil. The poor person who was poor as a result of his own bad habits did not have to be subsidized by the land owner and the professional harvesters who worked his fields. The land owner had the right to exclude some poor people from access to his fields. Gleaning was therefore a highly personal form of charity, since the person who was required to give this charity was also the person who screened access to the fruit of the land.

This means that the gleaning law was a form of conditional charity in each individual recipient's case, although the loss was compulsory from the point of view of the land owner. Biblical charity is always conditional.(15) Charity is not to subsidize evil. Rushdoony's comments on this point are striking:

In the name of Christian charity, we are being asked nowadays to subsidize evil. Every time we give in charity to anyone, we are extending a private and personal subsidy to that person. If through our church we help an elderly and needy couple, or if we help a neighboring farmer with his tractor work while he is in the hospital, we are giving them a subsidy because we consider them to be deserving persons. We are helping righteous people to survive, and we are fulfilling our Christian duty of brotherly love and charity.

On the other hand, if we help a burglar buy the tools of his trade, and give him a boost through a neighbor's window, we are criminal accomplices and are guilty before the law. If we buy a murderer a gun, hand it to him and watch him kill, we are again accessories to the fact and are ourselves murderers also.

Whenever as individuals in our charity, or as a nation in that false charity known as foreign aid and welfare, we give a subsidy to any kind of evil, we are guilty before God of that evil, unless we separate ourselves from the subsidy by our protest.(16)

The local member of the land owner's tribe was the primary recipient of charity, but he was not the only one. The other recipient of the grace of gleaning was the stranger. These strangers were presumably resident aliens who had fallen on hard times. They might have been hired servants who could not find employment. They were people who did not want to go back to their home country. They were therefore people who wanted to live under the civil law of God in the Promised Land. These people were entitled to the same consideration that the poor Israelite was entitled to. It is clear that this arrangement would have increased the emotional commitment of the resident alien to the welfare of the community. He was treated justly.

2. The Land as God's Covenantal Agent

When Israel invaded the land under Joshua, this priestly act invoked the land's status as God's agent.(17) This special judicial office of the land was unique to the Mosaic era. The land was described as being under God and over man in a unique way in Israel. This was because of God's special presence in the temple. When this special presence of God ended in A.D. 70, the land of Israel lost this special judicial status. The land laws ended, including gleaning. (This included the jubilee land laws and their applications.)

Those few Christian social theorists who have taken gleaning seriously have tended not to acknowledge the close relationship between gleaning laws of the Old Testament and the presence of the people of Israel in the Promised Land. The original distribution of property in Old Testament Israel was based on a concept of a legitimate war of conquest. So was the land's status as God's covenantal agent. The land that families received after the Canaanites were defeated by Joshua's generation, was part of a one-time-only national spoils system. The transfer of wealth was from the Canaanites to the Israelites. (Note: this involved the transfer of wealth from previously poor Canaanites to newly rich Israelites. God is not on the side of the poor, contrary to liberation theologians. He is on the side of the righteous. His covenantal goal is not that His people remain poor, let alone become poor. His goal is that His people become rich through covenantal faithfulness.)(18) God commanded and directed the execution of the various Canaanite societies. This is why God is again and again identified as the owner of the Promised Land. It was God who had given them their military victory, so He also had the legal right to specify how the land would be divided, inherited, and used. God established the terms of their leaseholds. As the owner, He had this right.


A Law of the Land, Not the Workshop

The gleaning law did not apply to non-agricultural businesses or professions. It originated from the fact that God declared Himself as the owner of the land -- not land in general but the Promised Land. He did not verbally claim an equally special ownership of businesses. The land, not business, was identified as God's covenant agent that brought God's covenant lawsuits in Old Covenant Israel.(19) God's legal relationship to the land was special. The land of Canaan, not existing Canaanite businesses, was divided up through the casting of lots after the conquest (Num. 34:13). This allowed God to enter directly into the land-distribution process by controlling the lots. This was not an auction system of "high bid wins," as a free market is. This division of the land was an aspect of the spoils of military conquest. The gleaning law was therefore closely related to the jubilee land laws of Leviticus 25, which were also based on the spoils of the original military conquest of the land. The Promised Land occupied a unique place in the legal structure of Old Testament Israel. Business did not.

Urbanization and Specialization

In both agricultural and non-agricultural societies, non-agricultural occupations tend to be more specialized than agriculture. In the city, it is common to have many competing businesses and opportunities, each with its own talents, requirements, training, and traditions. Urban life enables society to achieve a greater division of labor and hence greater specialization in both production and consumption. This means that the urban economy achieves greater per capita wealth than a rural economy does.(20) But this high specialization requires more capital per worker.

A greater variety of occupations is available to potential workers in the city, which means that there is a far greater number of occupations available for an apprentice to master. He has to choose. He cannot do everything. This reminds him that he is not God. He has to find a teacher to train him in some specialized occupation. Parents in a pre-industrial era agricultural society could train their own children on the farm. Non-agricultural workers must be trained by specialists. But there were not many masters to train other men's children in specialized urban occupations. Most people had to stay on the farm. Until the twentieth century, the apprenticeship system generally was much more common for urban businesses than for agriculture.(21) Only with the rise of the modern university and the spread of public education, both funded primarily by taxes, has bureaucratic education replaced apprenticeship.(22)

Management Costs

There were higher management costs for the owner of land during the gleaning operation. Gleaners had to be screened by the owner or by his representative or operations manager. This increase in management costs would have been especially true in urban occupations, had the requirements of gleaning applied to them. It would have been much more difficult for a non-agricultural business owner to monitor all the operations of a team of gleaners than would have been the case on a farm. The gleaner on the farm simply went into the field and picked up a recognizable agricultural product. He put it into a container and either took it to the owner for sale or took it home for personal use or resale. It is much riskier for the owner of a specialized occupation to bring untrained workers into his shop and have them gain something of value through gleaning. There is greater risk that a thief could steal a valuable product or tool from the shop. There is little of value to steal in the middle of a field except the crop, and that was the gleaner's property.

The gleaning law applied only to agricultural land. Any attempt to derive a modern system of charity, public or private, from the gleaning law faces this crucial limitation. It was not intended to apply outside a farm. About the most that we can hope for is to discover principles of giving that do not violate the principles underlying gleaning. The principles of gleaning show modern man what should not be done generally, not what should be done specifically. They are universal principles of voluntary giving, not laws that God imposes on a specific class. God does not threaten to bring negative sanctions against a giver who ignores the principles of gleaning and chooses other ways to give. A man who gives cash to a deserving poor man is not in trouble with God. He does not have to make the poor man work in the giver's corn field. But if he thinks that the poor man may not be reliable with money, he has the right to require the man to submit to various tests, including setting up a budget. The basic principle is this: biblical charity is conditional.

Conditional Charity: Moral Boundaries

The owner of the farm had to acknowledge the sovereignty of God by obeying the gleaning laws. These laws were a reminder to him that biblical authority always has costs attached to it. The owner of the land had been given capital that other people lack. He therefore had an obligation to the local poor as God's agent, for the land itself was pictured as God's agent. His obligation was to supply the land's leftovers to the poor.

In making this demand, the gleaning law placed decisive limits (boundaries) on both the poor rural resident and the State. It limited the moral demands that the poor could make on economically successful people in the community. The poor had no comparable moral claim against the successful non-agricultural businessman. This law also limited the demands that the State could make on the community in the name of the poor. Biblical law specified that the man with landed wealth should share his wealth with the deserving poor, but not the poor in general. The deserving poor were those who were willing to work hard, but who could not find work in the normal labor markets. In short, the gleaning law had conditions attached to it. The idea of morally compulsory, non-conditional charity was foreign to the laws of the Mosaic Covenant.(23)

The gleaner had to work very hard, for he reaped only the leftovers. This means his income was lower than would have been the case if he had been a professional harvester. Gleaning provides a lesson to the poor: there are no free lunches in life. Someone always has to pay. The economic terms of the gleaning system established that only the destitute members of the community would have become gleaners. If there had been any other source of income besides begging, they would have taken it. The hard work and low pay of gleaning was an incentive for the individual to get out of poverty.

Overcoming Poverty's Boundaries

Gleaning provided the poor person with an opportunity to demonstrate publicly his capacity for hard work under difficult personal conditions. First and foremost, he had to admit that he was in a tight financial condition. Pride would work against him. He had to humble himself before God and other men. He had to ask for help. Without this, there can be no salvation, either spiritual or economic. Pride goes before the fall; it often continues after the fall. Second, the gleaner was not asking for a form of charity that involved no work on his part. He was not claiming charity as either an unconditional legal right or an unconditional moral right. He was not claiming an entitlement.(24)

Gleaning was conditional. All charity is conditional. There is always more demand for aid than there is supply. Resources are scarce; they must be allocated in terms of conditions. The question is: Which conditions are biblically appropriate for charity? The State-mandated welfare system imposes bureaucratic conditions: forms, income tests, and placating local welfare bureaucrats. Gleaning was conditional in terms of the standards of the person who actually provided the opportunity with his own assets, the land owner. The gleaner was asking for an opportunity to do a lot of hard work at a low rate of return. The owner could exclude lazy or immoral workers from his field. We are once again back to the issue of boundaries: inclusion and exclusion. This authority of the land owner meant that not only did the gleaner have an opportunity to demonstrate his capacity for hard work, he almost had to demonstrate it in order to gain continued access to the field. The owner of the field was not required to subsidize lazy people.

The gleaning system provided a labor recruiting opportunity for land owners. Boaz is the best example of this in the Bible (Ruth 2). He saw in Ruth a dedicated worker and a loyal daughter-in-law. He saw that she was ethically upright. She distinguished herself first in the fields. The opportunity to locate good workers is a valuable asset. The gleaning system was ideal in this regard. The owner was in close proximity to the gleaners. They were given a way to please the owner by working hard and efficiently. The owners of these fields could see which gleaners performed well under adverse conditions. This was an important aspect of the labor market. Owners who honored the gleaning laws were given access to very important information. This information enabled them to determine who among the poor would have been best qualified to be hired as regular field harvesters. This means that gleaners could move up to a higher income level if they were successful in being hired as full-time workers. This provided the gleaner with greater incentive to arrive early and work hard and efficiently.

This institutional escape hatch out of poverty was also a great incentive for the gleaner to take orders from the person who was over him in the fields. Gleaning was part of a system of subordination. Hierarchy is basic to all institutions, and those individuals who acknowledged this and made good use of it were enabled to get out of poverty in Old Covenant Israel. The way out of poverty for the agricultural worker was to be hired full- time. Work was the way of escape. This included obedience.

One of the important rules of management is that the best way to become a good manager is to be trained by a good manager. We could also say that the best way to become rich is to be trained by someone who has become rich. The land owner was successful. This was the best person to supervise the system that taught the poor man how to become successful. Furthermore, gleaning was a system that created incentive for the owner to provide a system to teach the poor man. The owner wanted skilled, effective workers to do the harvesting. The gleaning system was a specially designed means of locating and training hard-working people. To this extent, therefore, the gleaning system was really a system of local education in personal self-management by the poor, and also a system for the economically successful to locate productive employees. This system of relief for the poor rested on a system of hierarchy.

We must always remember that the gleaning laws operated within the framework of the jubilee land laws. The poorest Israelite in the community at some point would inherit from his father or grandfather a portion of the original family inheritance. The size of that portion of land depended on the number of male heirs. Its value depended on the economic productivity of local residents who could legally bid to lease it.(25) The more productive the heir, the more likely that he would be able to retain control over it.(26) Gleaning gave the poor Israelite an opportunity to gain management and other skills as a land owner prior to the time that he or his children would be given back the original family land grant through the jubilee land law. The gleaning law provided training that could in the future be converted into family capital. The gleaning law was designed to keep poor people in the local agricultural community.

Unconditional Charity: Political Boundaries

The law governing gleaning was not a civil law. This means that it was not compulsory. No individual gleaner had an enforceable legal claim on any land owner. The gleaning system was therefore not part of a civil government entitlements program.

An entitlement is a legal claim, enforceable in a civil court. A welfare entitlement program is backed by the threat of civil sanctions. It will eventually transform the character of any welfare program: from a scheme established to help humble people climb out of poverty into a program that keeps pride-filled people and people without initiative in lifelong poverty. An entitlement is neither charity nor temporary; it is a permanent legal claim based on coercive law. It is a State-mandated system of permanent subsidies to people who refuse to work and who resent every suggestion that this refusal is either unwise or immoral. The government pays people if they remain poor. Legally and economically, this cannot be distinguished analytically from paying people to remain poor.

The market responds to rising demand by increasing the supply of the item demanded: in this case, poverty. The more money the State pays to keep people poor, the larger the number of poor people produced by the system. This law of the market has not been violated in the field of entitlements: growing numbers of poor people appear on the scene in response to increases in entitlements.(27) There are moral repercussions that are associated with these increases. Professional welfare administrators advance their careers only if the demand for their services increases. In the wonderful phrase of Shirley Scheibla, poverty is where the money is.(28) Thus, welfare administrators have an economic incentive to locate poor people and get them into the programs. A professionally managed entitlement system steadily removes the stigma of poverty from the thinking of the later generations of recipients and substitutes arrogance. The recipient knows that if he conforms to the welfare rule book, or appears to, the power of the State will extract his monthly income from taxpayers. He will get his money irrespective of any change in his behavior. In fact, evil behavior gets rewarded. Illegitimate children are added to the Aid to Dependent Children welfare rolls. Or: a riot -- looting, arson -- in which over four dozen people are killed leads to huge payments from the government.(29)

Resentment is created on both sides of these coercive transactions: the recipient thinks he should get more as a matter of right, both legal and moral, while the taxpayer thinks he should get less. The welfare recipient is not required to learn the skills and adopt the mentality of hope that are basic to any permanent escape from poverty. A permanent welfare class is created, thereby justifying the maintenance of a permanent welfare administration. Entitlements for the poor create employment entitlements for the Civil Service-protected bureaucrats who administer the system until the economy collapses, leaving many of the former taxpayers poor. Entitlements are the closest thing to economic entropy that a political order can legislate: a one-way street to chaos.

Effects on the Family

The erosion of the two-parent family in the United States has paralleled the rise of welfare entitlements. In 1970, 87 percent of all U.S. families were two-parent families. In 1980, this was down to 79 percent. In 1990, it was 72 percent. Mothers were usually the heads of these one-parent families: 12 percent out of 13 percent in 1970; 19 percent out of 22 percent in 1980; 24 percent out of 28 percent in 1990. Among black families, the erosion has been most serious. The percentage of two-parent families fell from 64 percent (1970) to 48 percent (1980) to 39 percent (1990). Mothers have been the heads of household in the 96 percent to 97 percent range throughout this period.(30) Nicholas Davidson has called the rise of the single-parent, mother-headed family America's greatest social catastrophe.(31)

A breakdown in morality has also paralleled the rise of the post-World War II welfare State. This can be seen most clearly in the rise of illegitimacy, which constitutes a social revolution. This revolution has taken only one 40-year generation. Among American teenagers, the increase has been horrendous. In 1960-64, the premarital birth rate among young teens of all races, 15 to 17, was about 33 percent; in 1984-89, it was over 80 percent. Among 18 to 19 year olds, the figure was under 17 percent in 1960-64; 59 percent in 1984-89. Illegitimate births among women age 15 to 34 were under 13 percent in 1960-64; they were above 28 percent in 1984-89.(32) In 1960-64 and 1965-69, 52 percent of those women who conceived before marriage were married at the time of the baby's birth. Then the figure started dropping: 1970-74: 45 percent; 1975-79: 33 percent; 1980-84: 31 percent; 1985-89: 27 percent.(33)

There were significant differences among races. Those racial groups less likely to be on welfare had lower illegitimacy rates. Of all births to black women, 57 percent were not married at the survey date in 1990; among whites, 17 percent.(34) Taking the 15 to 34 age group, we find regarding first births: Blacks: 70 percent (1984-89) vs. 42 percent (1960-64); Hispanics: 37.5 percent (1985-89) vs. 19.2 percent (1960-64); Whites: 21 percent (1985-89) vs. 8.5 percent (1960-64); Asians or Pacific Islanders: 15.5 Percent (1984-89) vs. 13.3 percent (1960-64), i.e., almost no change.(35)

The moral reality is much worse: these figures do not include aborted babies after 1973: about 1.5 million per year. Taking the figures back to 1950, under 2 percent of white babies were born illegitimate; it was almost 17 percent for blacks.(36) By 1990, the white illegitimacy rate was at the black rate of 1950.

This is not a uniquely American phenomenon. In France, about 30 percent of all children were born out of wedlock in 1990, almost three times higher than in 1980. An almost identical increase took place in Great Britain, year by year. There was little increase in Germany and Italy, however: from about 7 percent to 10 percent in Germany; from 3 percent to 5 percent in Italy.(37) The welfare State was far less advanced in these latter countries: in Germany because the work force was almost fully employed; in Italy because the central government was almost impotent.

Despite trillions of entitlement program dollars spent by the national government of the U.S. in the quarter of a century after the War on Poverty began, plus hundreds of billions spent by state and local governments, there has been no solution to the poverty problem of the inner cities. There is a small but seemingly permanent underclass of people who will not act to escape their poverty. Crime in these districts continues to rise, educational levels continue to fall, and the family continues to disintegrate within this underclass.(38) Their behavior is properly described as pathological. The issue is not race.(39) The issue is morality and worldview.(40) Entitlement programs, coupled with the secular humanism of the local public school systems and the demise of the traditional churches, has accelerated this pathology. The government has financed the severing of the moral links between generations by rewarding bastardy. It has subsidized evil.


Modern Applications of the Gleaning Law Are Few

How could the gleaning law apply in the modern world? As we shall see in a subsequent chapter, the jubilee land laws were fulfilled judicially by Christ's earthly ministry (Luke 4:16-21), and they were historically annulled at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The jubilee land laws had reference only to the conquered land of Canaan, which was held by Israelite families only on the basis of their ancestors' original military conquest of the land. Nevertheless, even if we did not argue that the gleaning law was lawfully annulled with the annulment of the jubilee land laws, we would still have to say that the law applies exclusively to agricultural pursuits. Therefore, in the twentieth century, the worldwide mass movement of population from the farm to the city would effectively have abolished the widespread economic relevance of this law. The law was never intended to apply to urban occupations.

Today, we find that in urban, industrialized nations, there are very few desperately poor people without jobs who live in rural communities. This is especially true in capitalistic countries. Human harvesters of the fields are mostly migrant workers or people who work part-time in the rural communities. Usually they have other jobs during the year, but they gain extra income during the harvest season. The main exceptions to this generalization are teenage children of migrants who go to school in the off-season.

The gleaning law could still be applied where hand-picking of crops is still common. This would mean primarily on farms producing vegetables and in fruit orchards (Deut. 24:20). But even here, machines are steadily replacing human labor, although this switch has been forced on employers by government-mandated minimum-wage laws, migrant labor unions, immigration laws, and other restrictions on hiring agricultural labor.

There is some question about the gleaning law's relevance to gardens. A garden in ancient Israel would probably have been planted for use by the family, not commercial farming: small plots harvested by family members, not professional harvesters.

Most of the value of modern farming in the U.S. is produced by grain farming. Machines harvest grain crops, not workers. This limits the relevance of the gleaning law mainly to small farms. There are very few of these small farms left in the modern world, since they are too inefficient to compete. The cost of labor is too high in a modern economy.(41) This is why so many of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the United States are imported from Mexico.(42) In areas where the primary source of income is agriculture, this means that there are very few local residents who could participate as gleaners.

Furthermore, there is too little productivity today in grain-gleaning by hand. The price of the grain is too low. This also is a result of the enormous efficiency of mechanized grain farming. There are so few people who live close to farms today that gleaning under the best of circumstances could not provide a way out of poverty for the masses of poor individuals. Most people live in cities, not in the country. There are better economic opportunities for people in cities than in rural areas. The poor migrate into the cities to take advantage of these opportunities. This has been going on in the West since at least the eleventh century, A.D. It has accelerated since the early eighteenth century.

There is waste in commercial agriculture, as there is in every business. A U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate of the value of food wasted in the U.S. is $31 billion,(43) with the figures broken down as follows. Consumers waste $16 billion (over 50 percent); harvesting loss: $5 billion; storage: $2.2 billion; transport $400 million; processing: $400 million; wholesaling and retailing: $6.2 billion.(44) The total loss is about 20 percent of the $150 billion worth of food produced in the U.S. This means that the value of food lost in the fields is about 3 percent of the value of agricultural output -- not a high percentage. Even if all of this $5 billion in harvesting waste could be recovered by gleaning, this would not significantly relieve poverty in a $6 trillion national economy.

Agricultural Productivity and Urbanization

We have to understand that it is the vast productivity of modern agriculture that has enabled the growth of urban areas. Without the low cost of food, not many people could afford to move to the cities. What we have seen since the early eighteenth century, beginning in Great Britain, is the steady urbanization of civilization. After 1700, the proportion of Englishmen living on farms dropped for sixty years, stabilized until 1800, and then started dropping again.(45) This was made possible because of the steady increase in the output of agricultural labor per unit of invested capital. At some point, this increase will stop, or else there will eventually be no human laborers on the farms at all -- an unlikely prospect. But for almost three centuries, this increase in the marginal efficiency of invested capital in agriculture has not been halted by the law of diminishing returns: it pays land owners to buy more equipment rather than hire more workers. This increase is also the result of greater productivity in the city. The tools of agricultural production keep getting more efficient. The division of labor is greater in urban areas, and the minds of many resourceful people have been applied to the problems of agriculture.

The increased output of the cities has also increased the living standards of the rural resident. Nothing was more effective in producing this increase in rural living standards than the coming of electricity.(46) This made possible an increase in rural productivity, but also an increase in the availability of consumer goods comparable to those enjoyed by urban residents. Yet the movement of population into the city and the suburb has continued nonetheless. Modern man has preferred to live in the city or town. All of this militates against the idea that a system of agricultural gleaning could be a major factor in reducing poverty in the modern industrial world. Any attempt to decrease rural poverty by anything except more investment (especially in education), transferrable urban production techniques, high-technology agriculture, advanced telecommunications, and better care of the soil, is doomed to failure.

Farming has never been more successful than today in producing economic value. The public wailing over the supposed "demise of agriculture" is a political ploy of an ever-shrinking number of inefficient producers. The cries of distress by "farmers" are in fact cries of outrage by less efficient farmers against successful, heavily capitalized agricultural producers. The demand for parity prices(47) -- government-mandated price floors for agricultural products -- is in fact a cry for prohibitions against voluntary exchange. These critics of free-market pricing want the Federal government to pass laws against allowing the more efficient, price-competitive farmers to get together with consumers and their agents in order to make exchanges at low monetary prices. In the United States, this cry for government interference is always made in the name of free enterprise.(48) The fact is, there has been no "crisis in agriculture" in capitalist countries: no famines in over two centuries.(49) The so-called "crisis in agriculture" is a crisis only for the less efficient producers. The consumers of agricultural products have been the winners. They define what constitutes a crisis in agriculture, not inefficient producers. On this basis, there has been no agricultural crisis. There has been a cornucopia.(50) It has been produced by an ever-shrinking number of agricultural laborers.(51) This has been a worldwide phenomenon. Economist D. Gale Johnson wrote in 1984: "In the past three decades a world food system has been created. This system is now capable of making food available to almost every person in the world. This was impossible just a few years ago."(52) He predicted that "the prospects for the long run are in the direction of continuing gradual declines in the real prices of the primary sources of calories for poor people."(53) The second half of the 1980's proved him correct.

There are very few human harvesters of crops today, especially grain crops. Fruit pickers do still exist, but they tend to be at the bottom of the barrel economically. There are few workers poorer than the migrant fruit and vegetable pickers. People who are willing to work for even less money than the migrant workers are very unlikely to stay in rural areas in the modern world. If gleaning were a permanent requirement for charity, this would raise the question of the legitimacy of modern commercial agriculture. After all, its efficiency has destroyed the applicability of the gleaning law. Is modern agriculture illegitimate because it is so efficient? This would be an odd way to argue: the illegitimacy of a vastly increased supply of bread -- the very thing that we are instructed to pray for in the Lord's prayer. Is modern agriculture illegitimate because it has freed people from life on the farm? Is there something inherently preferable about life on the farm? If so, then it is odd that the post-resurrection world is described as a city (Rev. 21:2).

There is another problem associated with the application of the gleaning law in modern times, one which is technical in nature. Mechanical harvesters are so efficient in the gathering of crops that they cannot easily leave gleanings. It is more difficult for harvesting machine operators to leave the corners of the fields bare because the machines are difficult to maneuver. There is no easy way to leave part of the crop in the main portion of the field unless the driver deliberately avoids harvesting a section of the field. The gleaning law told the harvesters not to pick up fallen grain; it did not tell them to avoid harvesting the crop, except at the corners of the fields.

The modern world quite properly ignores the gleaning laws of the Old Testament. It does so in more ways than one. Some of these reasons are legitimate, but others are quite illegitimate, such as the many attempts by the welfare State to create entitlements to government handouts as a substitute for "workfare" systems analogous to gleaning. The main reason why gleaning is no longer required is that the gleaning laws were part of the jubilee laws, which are no longer in force.

The Modern Welfare State

The modern world, including the academic Christian world, has reversed the Old Testament criteria of wealth and poverty. There is today a latent suspicion among tenured academics that anyone who is wealthy has achieved his status by unethical means. At the same time, the poor individual is almost universally assumed to be poor by reasons other than his own incompetence or moral rebellion.(54) This means that in the modern world, the welfare State and its apologists (of all faiths) have created a system in which the subsidizing of evil is required by law. Negative civil sanctions are threatened against all taxpaying citizens who refuse to subsidize evil.

In the modern system, the whole society is taxed in order to benefit the poor. Additional centralized power is created by the State in order to impose negative sanctions against those who will not pay taxes. The rules of wealth redistribution also become centralized, and they become impersonal. The administration of these rules is exclusively bureaucratic. Unlike the Mosaic Covenant land owner, who had the right to exclude the undeserving poor from access to the fields, it is almost impossible for the modern welfare agent to exclude people from the welfare roles. If the welfare recipient gives at least surface indication that he is looking for work, he is legally entitled to the benefits. The very phrase entitlements is indicative of the judicial shift.


In every system there must be a hierarchy. In the Mosaic economy, the land owner was at the top of the hierarchy of the welfare redistribution system. Today, a new class of paid administrators has been created. This class, because it is paid to administer the programs, has no direct economic interest in overcoming the problem of poverty on a permanent basis. Unlike the land owner, who personally financed the gleaning operation, the salaried administrator of the welfare system does not spend his own money in order to benefit the poor. Furthermore, this bureaucratic class absorbs the bulk of the funds that are raised in order to help the poor. In this system, the poor are penalized for seeking to escape poverty through work because they are penalized economically when they get a job. They lose the tax-free income they could have received by not working. The welfare State pays people not to work. This was not true under the gleaning system, since gleaning was very hard work.(55)

In contrast to the Old Testament's system of gleaning, the modern welfare system penalizes work and subsidizes unemployment. The poor can continue to receive money only through obedience to the new class of bureaucrats. This class of bureaucrats does not operate personally but impersonally, so the poor must meet endless criteria that are established through bureaucratic channels and in terms of the needs and preferences of those who occupy the offices. The poor find it difficult to escape the inevitable hierarchy: being poor and cared for by others. Unlike the poor person under the Old Testament's system of gleaning, which rewarded him for escaping poverty, the modern poor person grows to resent the whole system that keeps him in poverty.

The poor are well aware of this aspect of the welfare State. In the Old Testament, the gleaning system was seen by the poor as a benefit because it was his means to support himself and possibly escape his poverty by becoming part of the agricultural work force. Today, however, there is neither the appreciation of the welfare system on the part of the poor, nor are there structured avenues of escape that are presented by the administrators of the system to the poor. It is a self-reenforcing system of permanent poverty. The system as a whole responds predictably to the system of financing that sustains it. We are paying poor people not to work, and we are paying bureaucrats to keep themselves employed by paying these people not to work. The welfare system is not irrational; its participants respond quite rationally to the rewards and punishments that the politicians have imposed on the system. In today's welfare systems, all over the industrialized world, poverty is where the money is. The market responds with ever-growing numbers of self-declared and government-certified poor people.

We Are All Gleaners

Because each person is in bondage to sin, God has made gleaners of everyone. He cursed the ground, making it to bring forth thorns and thistles. This in effect put us all in the position of people who are not entitled to the best of the field. God removed the "easy pickings" from mankind as a result of mankind's rebellion. But at least he did not destroy the field (the world). He promises not to interfere directly with it until the final judgment (Matt. 13:29-30, 49). We must work harder than before the curse, but God graciously grants us access to the field. Those who are not content with second-best are given an opportunity to escape their economic bondage through faith in the great Gleaner, Jesus Christ, who served God faithfully unto death, buying our way out of spiritual bondage. God observes us, to see who is efficient and who is a sluggard. He uses history as a giant gleaning operation for recruiting servants for eternity. Those who do not demonstrate faithfulness under adversity are not given access to the fields of the post-judgment world, but instead are cast out into the fire.

In a very real sense, biblical evangelism prior to the great millennial outpouring of the Holy Spirit is a form of gleaning. We reap small harvests. We get the spiritual and cultural leftovers, after the local tyrants, the humanist school system, the cults, and the drug dealers have passed through the field and have picked off "the best and the brightest." Visible successes on foreign mission fields seem minor; meanwhile, the biological reproduction of God's enemies is now becoming exponential. We seem to be falling behind. We have few reliable models to imitate. Evangelism seems futile. But like gleaning, this condition is supposed to be temporary. Unfortunately, whole theologies are built in terms of "gleaning as a way of life."

To become a gleaner may tempt a person to accept second-best as a way of life. The gleaner may not recognize or appreciate his God-given opportunity. He may not see that he is being called into the Master's field in order to demonstrate his competence in the face of adversity. He may view his plight as something he does not deserve, not recognizing that after Adam, all that any man deserves is death and eternal wrath. He does not recognize the stripped field as a garden of opportunity. He imagines that all that he can hope for is a sack of leftover grain. His time horizon is too short. His future-orientation suffers from a lack of vision, and also a lack of faith in God's grace. He forgets how few and far between faithful workers are, and how the opportunity to glean the leftover harvest is a God-given way to demonstrate his character as a man with a future precisely because he has confidence in the future.

Eschatologies of the Stripped Field

Because the church has seen so few examples of successful evangelism, and because even the successful examples seem to fall back into paganism within a few centuries, Christians have come to adopt eschatologies that deny liberation for gleaners.(56) They see themselves and their spiritual colleagues as people who are locked in a vicious "cycle of impotence," to borrow the language of paganism's modern welfare economics.(57) They see no hope beyond the stripped field. Life only offers minimal opportunities for harvesting souls, they believe. "What we have today as gleaners is all that we or our heirs can expect in history." They lose faith in the jubilee year, when the land of their fathers reverts to them. They lose faith in the ability of the heavenly Observer to identify and hire good workers and to place them in new positions of responsibility. So, Christians have invented eschatologies that conform to their rejection of any vision of temporal liberation: eschatologies of the stripped field. Men with battered spirits preach that nothing Christians can do as spiritual gleaners will ever fill the sacks to overflowing. They see no covenantal cause-and-effect relationship between gleaning and liberation. They preach a new gospel of God's kingdom in history: the kingdom of perpetual leftovers. They do not recognize that there is a purpose for our evangelical gleaning: the public identification of those bondservants who actively seek liberation and who pursue every legitimate avenue of escape from bondage, especially hard work.


The gleaning law was part of an overall system of political economy. Many of the details of this political economy were tied to the Promised Land and the sacrificial system of that land. The economic laws of Leviticus were more closely attached to the Promised Land and the sacrifices than the laws of Exodus and Deuteronomy were. The Levitical land laws were part of a temporary system of landed familism, tribalism, and localism.

Localism and tribalism were both basic to the application of the gleaning law in Mosaic Israel. The authority of the local land owner to chose who would glean and who would not from among various candidates -- the boundary principle of inclusion and exclusion -- transferred great responsibility and authority into his hand. This kind of personalized charity is no longer taken seriously by those who legislate politically grounded welfare State policies in the modern world. Such a view of charity transfers too much authority to property owners, in the eyes of the politicians, and not enough to the State and its functionaries. But it is not the principle of localism that changes in the New Testament era; it is only the landed tribalism that changes. When the kingdom of God was transferred to a new nation (Matt. 21:43), meaning the church, the Levitical land laws were abolished.

Gleaning no longer applies in the New Covenant era. The jubilee land law was annulled by Jesus through: 1) His ministry's fulfillment of the law (Luke 4:16-27); 2) the transfer of the kingdom to the church at Pentecost (Matt. 21:43; Acts 2); and 3) the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Can we learn anything from the gleaning law? I think we can, but these lessons are essentially negative. They show us what should not be done, not what must be done, to avoid God's negative sanctions.

Lessons from Gleaning

The first lesson that we learn from gleaning is positive, however: all charity is based legally on the fundamental principle that God owns the earth. "The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). Primary ownership belongs to God. He can do what He pleases with that which He owns. He lawfully can establish requirements of property management that His legal subordinates must follow. This is the theocentric aspect of all ownership. God delegates to His subordinates the legal and economic responsibility of managing His property in His name. God is the primary owner. All other ownership is secondary and derivative.

All charity involves the transfer of this secondary ownership (the individual's) to a third party. This leads to the second principle of biblical charity. A third party has no legal civil claim on any asset that he does not own.(58) The one exception is restitution: a case in which the recipient has been positively harmed by a previous action of a judicially convicted person. The third party has no comparable legal claim in a civil court if he is asking for aid. The gleaning law is therefore crucially important for what it tells us about what is not involved in charity: a legal claim enforceable in a civil court. The poor person had a claim before God in God's court under the Mosaic Covenant's land management system, assuming that he could demonstrate that he was part of the deserving poor. But it was the land owner who was the lawful enforcer of this claim in history, not the State. This means that the land owner had to obey God apart from civil sanctions. He had to honor God's law. God would hold him accountable in His court.

If the strongest claim that anyone in the Mosaic Covenant had on the property of another was limited to this extent, then it is not biblically legitimate for any society to legislate State-enforced wealth redistribution in the name of charity. The Mosaic Covenant did not establish State sanctions against those people who refused to show mercy.(59) God was the poor man's defender, not some State bureaucrat. No modern principle of charity should violate this fundamental principle. Charity should be voluntary, i.e., not subject to civil penalties for non-compliance. It should strengthen the recipient's will to seek a way out of poverty.

Third, charity should not create a permanent dependence on the part of the recipient. Fourth, charity should not subsidize evil. Fifth, it should involve hard work except in cases where the recipient is medically incapacitated. Sixth, it should not provide living standards that are higher than the poorest workers in society are able to earn. Charity should not be a system of positive sanctions that pays people not to work. At best, it should persuade its recipients that work is preferable to charity. Charity should make an escape available.

The fundamental principle learned from the gleaning laws is this: charity in a biblical social order must not be based on the idea that the State is a legitimate institution of salvation. The State is not a biblically legitimate agency of social healing. It is an agency of public vengeance (Rom. 13:1-7). It possesses a lawful monopoly of violence. It therefore cannot be entrusted with the authority to take the wealth of successful people in order to reward the poor. If it is allowed to do this, its agents become the primary beneficiaries of the confiscated wealth. Its political and bureaucratic agents will gain power over both the poor and the economically successful. These agents will become permanent spokesmen for the official beneficiaries of the wealth, namely, the poor. They will have no incentive to get poor people as a class permanently out of poverty. A system of legal entitlements for the poor becomes a system of legal entitlements to full-time jobs for those who administer the system. This is the antithesis of the gleaning system of the Mosaic Covenant. In that system, participants had an economic incentive to get the poor back to work: the land owners, the piece-rate harvesters, and the poor themselves.


Fallen man is like the stranger in Israel: graciously allowed inside the boundaries of God's field.

Land owners in Israel were to manifest this grace by allowing poor people to glean from the remnants of the crop.

This form of charity was morally compulsory.

It is not a literal model for all charity.

It is a moral model for dealing with "the deserving poor."

The poor did not possess a civil claim on the remnant crop of any man's field.

Offering the right to glean was a positive injunction to owners; biblical civil law is negative: "Thou shalt not."

The negative sanctions for disobedience would be applied by God against individual land owners, not society as a whole.

The law applied to grain and vine: bread and wine.

The gleaning law was exclusively agricultural.

The land owners forfeited the value of the remnant of the crop.

Piece-rate professional harvesters also forfeited income, thereby funding a portion of an unemployment insurance program.

This law placed a boundary around the fanaticism of greed.

Gleaning was hard work: "workfare," not welfare.

Land owners could observe poor people at work: an information asset for an employer.

Gleaning produced extra food for society: gleaners did not skip anything, for they had almost nothing in reserve.

The gleaning system trained inefficient workers.

It subsidized total food production in the nation.

This law was limited to Mosaic Israel because: 1) ownership was tribal (rural and local); 2) the land was God's judicial agent.

This law tended to decentralize both charity and politics.

Gleaning was an aspect of the jubilee land laws.

Daily bread for the poor would be in the rural areas.

This law restrained the growth of large, impersonal, distant, charitable bureaucracies.

Local land owners would know which of the poor were poor because of circumstances rather than sloth or immorality.

This law did not apply to the workshop.

Management costs of gleaning in a shop would have been high.

How do you harvest something of value from remnants in a shop?

Charity is conditional: moral boundaries.

Poverty is a boundary to be overcome.

Gleaning taught subordination.

Unbounded charitable boundaries lead to unlimited bankruptcy.

If these unlimited boundaries are mandatory (civil), bankruptcy is mandatory.

Entitlements create class hostility.

As entitlements have risen in the U.S., families have broken apart.

There are few modern applications of the law of gleaning.

Most people live in cities; few farms still operate.

Rural poverty cannot be overcome by gleaning: a low-productivity job today.

Because modern men reject the idea of God's sanctions in history, poverty is seen as independent of morality.

The poor today are under the rule of welfare bureaucrats rather than successful owners.

The bureaucrats lose their jobs if poor people cease being poor.

Successful owners would be even more successful if the poor ceased being poor: more consumers to sell to.

Every man is a gleaner in God's field.

Biblical evangelism prior to the Great Revival is a form of gleaning: a harvest of spiritual leftovers.

This has led to eschatologies of the stripped field: a kingdom of perpetual leftovers.

The political economy of Leviticus was tribal, local, and familial.

All charity is based on the idea that God owns the earth.

Biblical charity denies civil entitlements to other men's property.

Biblical charity denies that the State is an instrument of social healing (salvation).


1. Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990), pp. 819-22.

2. Ibid., p. 279.

3. North, Tools of Dominion, ch. 7.

4. See chapter 22, below: "Mutual Self-Interest: Levites and Gleaners."

5. Gary North, Victim's Rights: The Biblical View of Civil Justice (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).

6. Presumably, as time goes on, we shall see a fusion of the two images in society. This process may be about to begin in the United States, as the suburban culture in the late twentieth century is being threatened by the economic and moral breakdown of the large inner cities that spawned suburbia. The next great migration may be out of suburbia toward more rural areas, but with imported technology as the basis of the new economy. See Jack Lessinger, Penturbia (Seattle, Washington: SocioEconomics, 1991).

7. In 1975, Patrick Boarman, who studied under Wilhelm Röpke and who translated his Economics of the Free Society into English (Chicago: Regnery, 1963), told me of an exchange between Röpke and an unnamed humanistic, free market economist. The economist was visiting Röpke's home outside of Geneva. Röpke had a garden. "That is not an efficient way to produce food," his visitor said. Röpke's reply was classic: "It is an efficient way to produce men." A variation of this story is repeated by Russell Kirk, who says that the visitor was Ludwig von Mises. I do not recall hearing this from Boarman. Russell Kirk, "Foreword" (1992), Wilhelm Roepke, The Social Crisis of Our Time (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction, [1942] 1992), p. ix.

8. Carolyn Webber and Aaron Wildavsky, A History of Taxation and Expenditure in the Western World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986).

9. Aaron Wildavsky, The Nursing Father: Moses as a Political Leader (University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1984), p. 30.

10. Idem.

11. It is true that humanistic economic science cannot legitimately draw such a conclusion from economic theory alone. To do so would involve making interpersonal comparisons of subjective utility, a practice which Lionel Robbins exposed as nonscientific as early as 1932: The Nature and Significance of Economic Science (2nd ed.; London: Macmillan, 1935), ch. 6. I am assuming, contrary to what humanist economics officially allows, that very poor people will work harder and more thoroughly to harvest the crop's leftovers than comparatively well-fed harvesters will work to harvest leftovers. The motivation of the poor man to harvest leftovers is normally greater than the motivation of the professional harvester to harvest leftovers. On the question of interpersonal comparisons of subjective utility, see Gary North, The Dominion Covenant: Genesis (2nd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987), ch. 4; North, Tools of Dominion, Appendix D: "The Epistemological Problem of Social Cost."

12. North, Dominion Covenant, ch. 1: "Cosmic Personalism."

13. Except insofar as we consider donors as consumers: buyers of good feelings, self-worth, and future economic benefits should they fall on hard times.

14. There are in principle only two management systems, profit management and bureaucratic management. The difference between them is the financing. Bureaucratic management does not depend on the voluntary market responses of consumers to offers made by entrepreneurs. Ludwig von Mises, Bureaucracy (Spring Mills, Pennsylvania: Libertarian Press, [1944] 1983).

15. Ray R. Sutton, "Whose Conditions for Charity?" in Theonomy: An Informed Response, edited by Gary North (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), ch. 9.

16. R. J. Rushdoony, Bread Upon the Waters (Nutley, New Jersey: Craig Press, 1969), p. 5. A good example of this sort of government charity is the case of the U.S. State Department's public insistence, a week before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, that the Congress should not cut off the American government's subsidies to the government of Iraq. The State Department had been taking this line from May onward, despite Hussein's public statement in late February that the U.S. was an imperialist power. The economic aid, State Department spokesman John Kelly insisted, would enable the United States to exercise a stabilizing influence on Hussein. See "Kuwait: How the West Blundered: The signals that were sent -- and the one that wasn't," Economist (Sept. 29, 1991), pp. 20, 22. The U.S. attacked Iraq on Jan. 16, 1991. The war lasted one month.

17. See Chapter 10, above.

18. Gary North, "Free Market Capitalism," in Robert G. Clouse (ed.), Wealth and Poverty: Four Christian Views of Economics (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1984).

19. See Chapter 10, above.

20. The development of nanotechnology, fiber optics, and other technological breakthroughs may in the future bring urban productivity to rural communities, at least until population growth makes such communities more urban. But there is still the question of corporate worship. The division of labor in a local church cannot be divorced from the size of the local church and the number of nearby churches.

21. It was a practice of the New England Puritans to send their children no later than age 14 into other homes in order to get their occupational training. Historian Edmund Morgan suggests that one reason for this custom is that the Puritans did not trust their own commitment to discipline their children sufficiently to make them reliable workers. Morgan, The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-Century New England (rev. ed.; New York: Harper & Row, 1966), p. 77.

22. Before the twentieth century, college was the prerogative only of the children of rich families or academically gifted students whose college careers were subsidized by the church or another charity. College did not provide a training program for manual workers or prospective businessmen. College was limited to the liberal arts. It prepared men for the ministry of the gospel, public service, school teaching, and a handful of white-collar professions. Even such skills as law and medicine were more often gained through the personal apprentice system than through college.

23. It is equally foreign to the law of the New Covenant. This assertion appalls Timothy Keller. See Keller, "Theonomy and the Poor: Some Reflections," in William S. Barker and W. Robert Godfrey (eds.), Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1990), pp. 273-79. He calls for initially unconditional charity to all poor people. He argues that anyone in need anywhere on earth is my neighbor, thereby universalizing the moral claims of all poor people on the wealth of anyone who is slightly less poor. He writes: "Anyone in need is my neighbor -- that is the teaching of the Good Samaritan parable." Ibid., p. 275. He rejects the traditional Christian concept of the deserving poor (pp. 276-77). He concludes: "I am proposing that the reconstructionist approach to biblical charity is too conditional and restrictive." Ibid., p. 278. For my response, see North, Westminster's Confession: The Abandonment of Van Til's Legacy (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1991), pp. 271-73. See also Sutton, "Whose Conditions for Charity?" in North (ed.), Theonomy, ch. 9.

24. The word "entitlement" refers to a legal claim on government money or services, or on money or services from private sources mandated by the government. It means "legal right to," as distinguished from "legal immunity from." The word seems first to have appeared in a United States government document in 1974. It has become a widely used substitute term for "public welfare" ever since the first year of Ronald Reagan's Presidency: 1981. Norman Ornstein, "Roots of `Entitlements,' and Budget Woes," Wall Street Journal (Dec. 14, 1993), p. A16. See Thomas L. Friedman, "Clinton Wary of Cutting Entitlements," New York Times (Dec. 14, 1993), p. A12.

25. The economist looks for a price to establish value. The highest market value is determined by the highest market bid by a potential buyer or long-term leaser.

26. This legal right to inherit the family's land did not extend to the stranger until after the exile (Ezek. 47:22-23).

27. When the U.S. government's War on Poverty program began in 1965, the emphasis was on eliminating poor people's dependence on public assistance. Problem: the official poverty statistic does not measure progress toward this goal. To get around this limitation, Charles Murray defines the "latent poor" as those who show up below the officially defined poverty level, plus those who are above the poverty line only because they receive government assistance. Thus defined, latent poverty went from one-third of the U.S. population in 1950 to 21 percent in 1965. Under President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" programs, this figure dropped to 18.2 percent by 1968. Then it started back up under President Nixon. It reached 22 percent in 1980 -- higher than where it had been when the War on Poverty began. Charles Murray, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 (New York: Basic Books, 1984), pp. 64-65. This poverty statistic counts only money transfers. If we count in-kind transfers (e.g., food stamps), we get a "net poverty" figure. In 1972, the net poverty figure was 6.2 percent of the U.S. population. Over the next seven years government welfare expenditures for in-kind assistance doubled. In 1979, the net poverty figure was 6.1 percent: no progress. Ibid., p. 63.

28. Shirley Scheibla, Poverty Is Where the Money Is (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1968).

29. The riot in south central Los Angeles in early May, 1992 -- a Presidential election year -- lasted almost a week. The population of this section of the city is almost entirely black. Over 50 people died during the riot, killed by rioters, not the police or National Guard troops. By the end of the week, President George Bush, who was campaigning for re-election, joined with Congress to promise over $600 million in tax money to the area. (Gold was around $350 per ounce.) A national poll conducted during the riot revealed that some 61 percent of those polled said the nation was spending too little on improving the conditions of black Americans, up from 35 percent in 1988. Some 63 percent said the Federal government was not paying enough attention to the needs and problems of minorities, up from 34 percent in 1988. "Los Angeles Riots Are a Warning, Americans Fear," New York Times (May 11, 1992). In 1965, a riot that began in Watts, also in south central Los Angeles, led to the deaths of over 30 people. This took place at the beginning of the War on Poverty. The Federal government then spent about $2.4 trillion on welfare programs nationally, 1965-1992.

30. "Family Demographics," American Enterprise (March/April 1991), p. 93.

31. Nicholas Davidson, "Life Without Father," Policy Review (Winter 1990).

32. Amara Bachu, Fertility of American Women: June 1990, Current Population Reports, Population Characteristics, Series P-20, No. 454 (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of the Census, U. S. Department of Commerce, 1991), p. 7.

33. Ibid., p. 9.

34. Ibid., p. 3.

35. Ibid., pp. 7-8.

36. Andrew Hacker, "Review of Rickie Solinger, Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade (New York: Routledge, 1992)," New York Times Book Review (March 29, 1992).

37. The Economist (May 2, 1992), p. 59.

38. William Julius Wilson, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy (University of Chicago Press, 1987).

39. William Julius Wilson, The Declining Significance of Race: Blacks and Changing American Institutions (2nd ed.; University of Chicago Press, 1980).

40. Edward Banfield, The Unheavenly City: The Nature and Failure of Our Urban Crisis (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970).

41. One way to make these small truck farms pay is for the owners to invite the public in to pick the crop and pay for the privilege. This is economically feasible in areas within a few miles of a city. This arrangement would make it very difficult for the owner to police the gleaning requirement. The owner who required the paying customers to leave part of the crop would find himself with fewer paying customers.

42. In early 1991, the U.S. government sought to lower tariffs on imported crops from Mexico, and U.S. farmers protested. The idea of consumer choice was not challenged directly, but the law's opponents found ways to attack this reduction of government taxation and interference with consumer sovereignty. See the anti-free trade article by U.S. Senator Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, "No More Uncle Sucker," New York Times (March 26, 1991), Op Ed page. The passage in late 1993 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, a binding treaty, promised to end this dispute over Canadian-U.S.-Mexican agricultural tariffs.

43. With gold at about $350/oz.

44. Jonathan Eig, "Waste Not, Want Not," Dallas Morning News (Sept. 27, 1993).

45. N. F. R. Crafts, "Income Elasticities of Demand and the Release of Labor by Agriculture During the British Industrial Revolution: A Further Appraisal," in Joel Bokyr (ed.) The Economics of the Industrial Revolution (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1985), pp. 159-61.

46. This does not mean that the U.S. Federal government was economically justified in having provided cheap electricity to rural areas. It means only that this was an economically beneficial subsidy, as government subsidies go, from the point of view of the recipients. Private power companies would eventually have provided this service to those farmers whose output would have justified the cost, but it would have taken decades longer. Urban taxpayers in the late 1930's and early 1940's funded most of the rural electrification projects in the United States east of the Mississippi. This subsidy did not halt the outflow of people from the farms, nor did it "save" the small family farm. It did make large corporate farms possible in regions where the lack of electrical power had kept them out. It launched today's large corporate agriculture. Cheap power made heavily capitalized farming productive in rural areas. Cheap electricity was the missing link -- the missing complementary factor of production -- in the triumph of mechanized agriculture. It made possible the economies of scale of large-scale agriculture. Small farmers moved to the cities. So did their children.

47. Charles Walters, Jr., Unforgiven: The Biography of an Idea (Kansas City, Missouri: Economics Library, 1971).

48. Walters' Unforgiven was co-published by the Citizens Congress for Private Enterprise.

49. Ireland in the 1840's was the one exception, but Ireland was not an industrial, capitalist economy in the 1840's.

50. John A. Prestbo (ed.), This Abundant Land (Princeton, New Jersey: Dow Jones & Co., 1975).

51. Wayne C. Rohrer and Louis H. Douglas, The Agrarian Transition in America: Dualism and Change (Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969).

52. D. Gale Johnson, "World Food and Agriculture," in The Resourceful Earth: A Response to Global 2000, edited by Julian L. Simon and Herman Kahn (London: Basil Blackwell, 1984), p. 67.

53. Ibid., p. 68.

54. A widely popular statement of this position is Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study, co-published by InterVarsity Press and the Paulist Press in 1977. For a reply, see David Chilton, Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators: A Biblical Response to Ronald J. Sider (3rd ed.; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1990).

55. We also pay farmers not to farm.

56. Gary North, "Ghetto Eschatologies," Biblical Economics Today, XIV (April/May 1992).

57. The so-called "cycle of poverty."

58. In Old Covenant Israel, a person had the right to pluck grapes and corn from a neighbor's fields, though only what he could carry in his hands (Deut. 23:24-25; Luke 6:1). This law increased the likelihood of travel and communications, since visitors would not have to return home to eat or carry food with them everywhere. The economic benefit of being located close to a road -- cheap transportation of farm commodities -- was partially offset by this open access law.

59. The other comparable claim was the poor borrower's access to a non-interest-bearing loan. As the year of release approached, the prospective lender was warned by God not to harden his heart against his poor brother (Deut. 15:9-10). There is no indication that anyone could be prosecuted in a civil court for his refusal to lend on these terms.

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