“When you come into your neighbor’s vineyard, you may eat your fill of grapes at your pleasure, but you shall not put any in your container.”
In John 12:8, Jesus said, “The poor you will have with you always…”; history has certainly proven that to be a truthful statement. Even today, with all the advances in science, medicine and technology, there are still those who struggle to make ends meet, and have to have their basic needs met. Understanding that this would be a constant struggle, God established a system within Israel whereby the needs of the poor could be satisfied. It was based upon both the grace of God and the love of His people.
Without the natural resource of a river like the Nile or Euphrates, Israel requires an abundance of rain for their crops to develop. God promised to provide adequate rainfall for the nation. It was this gracious provision of God that made abundance possible. Each year as the rain fell the people were reminded of God’s gracious promises and provision.
When it came time to harvest the field, the owners were to leave a substantial amount of fruit in the fields for those who were unable to provide for themselves. Instead of violently shaking every tree to get the last olive, they were to leave that for the poor. The same was true of the vineyard and the grain fields. Leaving this behind would mean there was always provision for those who lacked.
We see this law being practiced in the New Testament by Jesus and the Twelve. We read that they passed by a field and plucked the grain and ate. They were not stealing, but were having their needs met by God’s provision for the poor. We also see this law practiced in the book of Ruth. We find Naomi and her daughter-in-law struggling to survive after the death of their husbands. Ruth is sent to the fields of Boaz to work on the harvest, and we read the shearers purposely left extra behind for Ruth (Ruth 2:16).
While there is nothing wrong with storing up for our future, or having nice things, we cannot do so at the expense of neglecting to express the grace and love of God to those who are in need. Jesus said,
“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Matthew 6:3
It is His expectation that His people will do charitable deeds for one another as an expression of the love of God.