Recently I was tilling up my vegetable garden to prepare for planting. As I was wrestling the tiller around one of the corners, I remembered an instruction given to the Israelites under the Law of Moses. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 19:9-10). Suddenly I saw myself as one of the Israelites, preparing to obey the commandment of the Lord.
Picture a Jew plowing his field for planting. He took great care to prepare his land well, knowing that the produce would be feeding his family and providing for his needs. As he approached the corners of his field, he continued to work hard, but he knew this portion of the land would not be for him. It would be for those in need. Even though he would not personally reap the harvest of his work, he labored with the same kind of care knowing he was providing for the needs of others. These corners of the field were for a special purpose. They were dedicated to his fellow man and ultimately they were dedicated to God.
The Jewish leaders wrote concerning such laws as this one saying, “These are the things for which there is no measure: the corner of the field [which is left for the poor], the first-fruits offering, the pilgrimage, acts of loving kindness, and Torah learning. These are the things for which a person reaps the fruits in this world, and gets a reward in the world to come: honoring one's father and mother, acts of loving kindness, and bringing peace between people. And the study of Torah is equal to them all” (Mishna, Pe’Ah 1:1). There were certainly commands God gave in which God specified a specific amount, such as a tithe, but these things had no exact measure. God could have specified a certain amount (something the Jewish leaders later tried to legalistically legislate), but God left it up to the person. By doing this, God made this command a matter of opportunity more than obligation. It was a freewill offering. While a Jew could cut his corners as wide or tight as he chose, his decision was a clear reflection of the level of love he had for those in need.
Under the law of Christ, it seems there are many more things of no exact measure. How much are we to give back to the Lord? As much as we have been prospered and purpose in our hearts (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:7). How often as we to pray? We are to pray always, in every situation, and without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We are instructed to practice hospitality but how often? According to the grace given to us by God and without grumbling (I Peter 4:9). There are really very few things in which God has legislated a specific amount today. One Christian may see in this an opportunity to technically get by doing as little as possible while another Christian may see it as an opportunity to do as much as they can. The difference is their hearts. We need to remember the words of Jesus: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:10). Being a Christian is not about looking for a limit, or a checklist, and seeking to do just that amount.
Today, very few of us have fields full of crops, but some of us do have gardens. Perhaps we could dedicate a portion of our harvest to those who are poor or those who are unable to grow fresh fruit and vegetables themselves. Some of us have a special talent or ability that could be put to use in serving those who cannot do what we do. Others may be blessed with financial stability and can dedicate a portion of their income to those in need or to the preaching of the gospel in difficult places. There are “fields” in all of our lives. Sometimes we have to think outside of the box to see how they can bless the lives of others, but the opportunities abound. Speaking of giving with generosity, Paul comments, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10-12).