Summary: Who has God placed in your life with whom you can share his love? At the end of the day, that is one practical test of the gift of the Holy Spirit in your life.
THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Acts 2:38; Lev. 23:22
One of the institutions we have here in Belleville is the Gleaners Food Bank. It was started in 1986 by a number of city churches and is now run by an independent board out of its new location at 25 Wallbridge Crescent. Its mission statement is "Providing a food network to improve the quality of life for families in Quinte Region." Our own Charles Burghgraef has been actively involved in it for a number of years and tells me that:
- In 2008 the Gleaners Food Bank distributed over seven thousand emergency Food Hampers benefiting over 14,000 adults and children.
- In addition, through its Tri-County Food Network Warehouse, Gleaners distributed over 200,000 kgs. of food to 9 area food banks, 13 community meal programs, 60 School Breakfast & Snack Programs, 51 non-profit agencies & seniors in affordable housing.
It is clearly a ministry that has grown rapidly.
The name Gleaners is derived from scripture and is related to the verb "to glean" which means "to gather gradually bit by bit". It is used in the Old Testament to describe the process whereby poor people could come onto a landowner’s property after the crop had been harvested and glean, or gather, the leftovers. At least three times in Law of Moses, the Lord gives very explicit instructions about gleaning, including these verses in Leviticus 23:22: When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God
Please note three things in this verse:
1) Gleaning was God’s provision to provide for the poor and the dispossessed. “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God’” (Lev. 23:22, NIV). The book of Deuteronomy says, Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, (Dt. 24:19, NIV). The alien, the fatherless and the widow all represent the most vulnerable members of society: people who have nobody to look after them and who are therefore of particular interest and concern to the Lord God Almighty.
It has been said that the health of a society is measured by how well it looks after its most vulnerable members. We, of course, today are accustomed to the benefits of a welfare state. When we’re out of work, we draw unemployment or get social assistance. We have many social safety nets. We readily forget that this is largely the fruit of our Judeo-Christian heritage and not at all the natural course of things either historically or globally. Typically the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and everybody is expected to take care of themselves.
God, however, has a deep compassion for the poor and the helpless and so part of his provision for the disadvantaged in Israel was that they would have the right to gather the leftovers after the harvest was done. Note this wasn’t just a handout to create dependency. No, they had to work for it. Scripture emphasizes that if you are healthy physically, emotionally and mentally you are to look after yourself as best as you can. Handouts are reserved for those who cannot look after themselves. A classic example of gleaning is the story of Ruth who gleans from Boaz’s field in the book of Ruth.
2) Gleaning is a function of Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord God. Twice in Leviticus this commandment regarding gleaning is repeated and each time it ends with the phrase: I am the Lord your God (Lev. 19:10 & 23:22). The reason for this is not hard to figure out. It is counterintuitive to allow others to come onto your property and glean leftovers. The tendency is to look after oneself first. Even today leftovers are often destroyed lest they cut into sales. Typically, people who are generous do so once they are basically secure. Because most of us never think we have enough the generosity of most people in the world is pretty limited. This concept changes when you know the Lord as your God. Provision then is not simply the result of your own hard work but rather of His favour and blessing. If you trust, obey and serve Him then you can afford to be generous because he will bless you. Here is how Deuteronomy puts it: When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands (Deuteronomy 24:19, NIV). Proverbs 19:17 puts it this way, He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.