GLEANING: CHARITABLE INEFFICIENCY
When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands. When thou beatest thine olive tree, thou shalt not go over the boughs again: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. When thou gatherest the grapes of thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing (Deut. 24:19-22).
The theocentric principle undergirding 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. Fallen man is always a gleaner.(1)
God was the original land owner who sought to make the Promised Land's blessings available to every able-bodied worker who was willing to go into the fields at the time of the harvest. This was an aspect of the dominion covenant: man as God's steward who participates in the subduing of the earth (Gen. 1:26-28). Those who were without land or tools in Mosaic Israel nevertheless had an obligation to work. Because the Mosaic law kept rural land permanently in the possession of families that were heirs of the conquest generation, this case law opened the closed fields. The gleaners could not inherit these fields,(2) but they had a moral claim on a portion of the leftovers. This was both a land law and a seed law.
This passage expands on the gleaning laws of Leviticus: "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). "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger: I am the LORD your God" (Lev. 23:22). It identifies the three classes of vulnerable residents: widows, orphans, and strangers. It refers to Israel's years as a slave in Egypt. It offers positive sanction: "that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands." The negative sanction of bondage is contrasted with the positive sanction of God's blessings.
Inefficiency: Yes and No
The stated goal of modern economic science is to explain men's actions in terms of the principle of income maximization, i.e., sanctions: profit and loss. For a given expenditure of scarce economic resources, how can a person maximize his personal return, however he defines "return"? Put another way, how can he avoid wasting valuable resources? How can he exchange his present circumstances for better circumstances in the future without surrendering the ownership of benefits that need not be surrendered?
The farmer was warned by Moses not to seek to maximize his total return on his agricultural investment. He was not to go back to pick up the forgotten sheaf, or go through his olive orchard, beating the trees a second time, or glean the vineyard a second time. The three examples in the text apply to the raw materials for producing bread, wine, and oil. These were the vegetable sacrifices required by God (Lev. 2:4; 23:13). They were the best produce of a man's field. They served here as representatives of all agricultural production. Moses told owners of these crops that they should leave behind some small percentage, so that gleaners could harvest them. This meant that the Mosaic law transferred partial ownership of these unharvested crops to those who did not own the land and had not made the investments necessary to produce them.
By the standards of modern economics, God was commanding land owners to be wasteful. He commanded them to leave behind for others a small portion of the fruits of their investment. He was saying clearly that members of three defenseless groups -- strangers, widows, and orphans -- had a moral claim on a small portion of the output of the land.(3) They did not have a legal claim, but they had a moral claim. Here, the Bible's supreme example is Ruth, who was both a stranger and a widow. Boaz let her glean in his fields (Ruth 2).
This was an inefficient way to harvest crops. God was saying that it was an efficient way to harvest souls. Poverty-stricken people who would gain access to the post-harvest fields would recognize in the land owner a willingness to forfeit a portion of his income for the sake of God's law, which recognized the plight of the righteous poor. Word would get out among the poor: here was a man to be imitated. Down the ladder of wealth, from the richest to the poorest, the goal was to provide a boost out of poverty to the people on the rung below. But in the case of the land owner, he was required by God to reach down two rungs and provide a poor person with a way to climb out of poverty. Sometimes poverty is well deserved. Sometimes it isn't. The goal of this Mosaic law was to pressure the land owner to identify the righteous poor in his community and provide both income and work experience for them.
An efficient man is a man who plans for the future. He counts the future costs of his present actions. A poor man is rarely an efficient man. He is too worried about his next meal to plan ahead very far into the future. He is present-oriented. This law announced to the poor man: "If you are willing to work hard, you will not have to worry about where your next meal is coming from. You will then be able to plan ahead more easily." A man who was present-oriented because of an ethical failure would probably remain poor. In contrast, a future-oriented man whose time horizons had been shortened because of his poverty was given a way to rise in his class position. Class position is based more on time-perspective than money. The present-oriented man is lower class.(4)
The motivation for obedience offered rested on a cause-and-effect system of sanctions. In this case, the motivating sanction was supernaturally based, historically manifested, and positive: "that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hands" (v. 19). There was also an implied negative sanction: "And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt: therefore I command thee to do this thing" (v. 22). The oppression of Israel in Egypt was the Mosaic model for oppression. The unstated implication in this passage was that Israel's deliverance from Egypt is the model of God's corporate judgment in history. As God's firstborn son (Ex. 4:22), Israel had gained the inheritance of the Egypt's disinherited firstborn sons, who had died at Passover. The message: the oppressed will eventually inherit in history. To maintain the inheritance, a person or a nation must not become an oppressor.
This is a continuing theme in Deuteronomy: the ethically conditional nature of the inheritance. Without righteousness, Israel's inheritance could not be permanently maintained. This is one of the crucial themes of the Bible. It undergirds inheritance by the New Covenant church: "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43). The church inherited the kingdom because Israel did not remain obedient to God's law. The context of Jesus' announcement of Israel's coming disinheritance was His parable of the unjust stewards who refused to pay what they owed the land owner. He even lured the chief priests and the elders into condemning themselves in public for disobeying God: "They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons" (Matt. 21:41).
Despite Jesus' confirmation of the Mosaic Covenant's system of sanctions, Christians have ignored or downplayed this theme of historical inheritance and disinheritance. This is evidence of widespread antinomianism: hostility to biblical law. Christians have asserted that the Mosaic law and its sanctions, both civil and historical, have been completely annulled by the New Covenant. This has led them to a dismal conclusion: there will be no unique cultural inheritance by Christians in church history; there will be no disinheritance of God's enemies. The meek will not inherit the earth. Jesus really did not teach Christians to expect such an inheritance, we are told. He was speaking about the millennial "Jewish church" (dispensationalism's view). Or He was speaking allegorically about eternity (amillennialism's view). But He could not possibly have meant that those who are meek before God will exercise dominion in history. Such a "triumphalist" outlook rests on faith in a system of predictable, corporate, historical, covenantal cause and effect, which in turn rests on a revelational moral and legal order. In short, such an outlook rests on theonomy. This outlook is not acceptable to modern Christianity.
Gleaning as a Model
Because I have already covered gleaning in Chapter 11 of Leviticus: An Economic Commentary, I am reproducing that chapter here. Deuteronomy 24:19-22 identifies the poor more specifically: stranger, orphan, and widow. It also adds a reason: Israel's time of bondage in Egypt. God had delivered Israel from this bondage. Israelite land owners were to offer similar deliverance to the poor.
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. 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 was 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.(5) 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. What a person does to the poor is counted as if he did it to Jesus (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 a 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 an individual land owner who refused to honor the gleaning laws. The State was therefore not authorized by the text to bring these sanctions against individuals on behalf of God. The sanctions were individual rather than corporate. 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. To violate this law was a sin, not a crime. God would curse the owner directly, but the society was not at risk. Thus, civil sanctions were inappropriate.(6)
This law applied only to agriculture: field and vineyard. Field and vineyard are the sources of bread and wine: Melchizedek's meal for Abram (Gen. 14:18) and also the Lord's Supper.(7)
The Economics of Gleaning: Who Paid, Who Benefitted?
What was 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. This 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 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 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, not the State, offers Holy Communion. This distinction is representative of the differing functions of the two institutions.
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 morally compulsory insurance program.
Benefits for the Land Owner
The law placed a burden on the land owner. 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 careful 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.
The gleaner had to work harder than the average worker did in order to harvest 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 high 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 before God that the gleaner possessed.
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. In effect, employers in Mosaic Israel could "glean" future workers from society's economic "leftovers."
This system produced more food for the community than would have been produced apart from the law, although costs were higher than otherwise.(11)
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. God 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 rural alternatives would have been starvation or beggary in the country. They would have moved to the cities, as hungry people all over the world do today.
The jubilee land inheritance laws kept rural land within the Israelite family. 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 plots 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.
This law also promoted localism rather than distant bureaucracy.(12)
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.(13) Charity is not to subsidize evil, for it is an act of grace. Unconditional charity is antinomian. In a fallen world, unconditional charity will inevitably subsidize evil.
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.
The land was God's covenantal agent. This law was agricultural only. It did not apply to urban businesses.(14)
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 lacked. He therefore had an obligation to the local poor as God's agent, for the land itself was pictured as God's agent.(15) 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.(16)
The gleaner had to work very hard, for he reaped only the leftovers. This means that 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.
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.(17) The more productive the heir, the more likely that he would be able to retain control over it.(18) 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.
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 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) 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.
The modern welfare State is a perverse mirror image of the gleaning law. It disregards the moral criteria for charity and substitutes bureaucratic-numerical criteria. This has greatly expanded both the political boundaries of charity and the extent of poverty. People get paid by the State for being poor; the free market responds: more poor people. The welfare State now faces bankruptcy: the destruction of those dependent on its support.(20)
There are few modern applications of the gleaning law, which was a land law. Modern society is not agricultural.(21) Nevertheless, there is a theological principle that undergirds gleaning: fallen man is always a gleaner. But redeemed men will progressively escape their dependence on other men's charity as society advances through God's grace.
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. 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.
The lessons from gleaning are these: 1) all charity is based legally on the fundamental principle that God owns the earth (Ps. 24:1); 2) a third party has no legal civil claim on any asset that he does not own; 3) charity should not create a permanent dependence on the part of the recipient; 4) charity should not subsidize evil; 5) it should involve hard work except in cases where the recipient is medically incapacitated; 6) it should not provide living standards that are higher than the poorest workers in society are able to earn.
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.
It is clear what God expects from property owners: a willingness to forego maximum personal returns. They are to "leave something on the table" for the other party in any transaction between righteous people. Non-owners -- the righteous poor -- have a moral claim on the output of the owners. The owners are merely stewards for God, the original owner. God provides the raw materials and the social order which provide wealth. In this sense, every owner is a "free rider" in the system: a person who has not paid for all of the services rendered. Grace precedes law. Man is always in debt to God. Every creature is a free rider in the creation. The owner who maximizes output for himself and his family thereby announces his own autonomy: "My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth" (Deut. 8:17b). In a world sustained by God's grace, this is a graceless attitude. It is an efficient way to become disinherited.
1. Gary North, Boundaries and Dominion: The Economics of Leviticus (computer edition; Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1994), ch. 11, section on "We Are All Gleaners."
2. Conceivably, some poor gleaner might be the long-term heir of the property who had temporarily lost possession of his field.
3. In Chapter 34, on the tithes of celebration, I identified these three groups as judicially undefended. This was because a fourth group, the Levites, were included in the list. The Levites were not necessarily poor. In this law, however, the Levites were not mentioned. Thus, I regard the classification here as economic rather than judicial.
4. Edward C. Banfield, The Unheavenly City: The Nature and Future of Our Urban Crisis (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), pp. 53-59.
5. North, Tools of Dominion, p. 279.
6. See my discussion in Boundaries and Dominion, ch. 11, subsection on "Individual Sanctions Against Disobedience."
7. Ibid., ch. 11, section on "Bread and Wine."
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.
11. North, Boundaries and Dominion, ch. 11, section on "More Food for Everyone."
12. Ibid., ch. 11, subsection on "Localism and Bureaucracy."
13. 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.
14. North, Boundaries and Dominion, ch. 11, section on "A Law of the Land, Not the Workshop."
15. Gary North, Leviticus: An Economic Commentary (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1994), ch. 10.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. This legal right to inherit the family's land did not extend to the stranger until after the exile (Ezek. 47:22-23).
19. North, Leviticus, ch. 10.
20. North, Boundaries and Dominion, ch. 11, section on "Unconditional Charity: Political Boundaries."
21. Ibid., ch. 11, section on "Modern Applications of the Gleaning Law Are Few."
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