With the return of the rains, I’ve been playing farmer, beginning to plow and harrow the fields surrounding our compound in preparation for the planting season. Now before you all rush out to sign up for the missionary life of driving a tractor around all day and taking in the sun, I should mention that this tractor does not have air-conditioning or steering via GPS. It has a sheet metal seat attached to the machine via four bolts upon which you sit, and every time you go over a hillock, the non-existent suspension jams the bolts into your buttocks and lower back. At the same time the sun is baking your skin and you are sucking down gulps of engine exhaust (beside all that, it is still a pretty reasonably enjoyable job).
Now that I’ve scared you all off, we may advance to the main point of this post: pastor Dave, while we were talking about the upcoming planting, asked what meaning—if any—the Old Testament gleaning laws have for our farming project in Nakaale. If you didn’t know, we’ve spent the last couple of seasons growing hibiscus for sale to an outside buyer, but this year we are thinking about trying out some different food crops, making Dave’s question freshly interesting.
The texts in question are as follows:
“And when you reap the harvest of you land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner. I amd the Lord your God.”
“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”
So, avoiding the thornier questions about the Old Testament law as it relates to the Church, do these passages provide a principle for us, as farmers, today? What does leaving the edges of the field to the poor mean for us as we harvest our crops this year? More to the point for our situation, how do these verses come into play when we are very much accustomed to the Karimojong stealing the crops out of our field in the first place? How can we seek to assist the poor in our community without sitting prey to and encouraging theft?
I confess that most often, I prefer to be the one making obscure and questionably meaningful inquiries. Dave beat me to this one and piqued my curiosity, so even as I am forced to think a bit about these issues, I thought I’d put the question to our readers, all six of you, and see what responses you might come up with. Leave your answers in the comments below, if you are so moved.