What Is Urban Gleaning?
Caroline Powell unpacks how we can use biblical principles to give in a way that dignifies and uplifts those we’re trying to help.
“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. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19: 9-10
Based on God’s generosity laws in the Old Testament, Urban Gleaning is a modern day model for ensuring that when Christians are involved in the giving and receiving of time, things, skills or money, which is still necessary in a world of inequalities, dignity is upheld to the highest standard.
While these laws were given to people living in a rural setting, thousands of years ago, the principles that they teach us are applicable to every Christian, everywhere, today.
God has given each of us, no matter what part of the city we live and worship in, a unique and precious harvest from which to give. Looking at it from that perspective, we should embrace God’s laws not to just “do charity” but to enter into a lifestyle of generosity and pursuing equality for the benefit of the whole of society.
Being a Boaz: Following God’s generosity laws with God’s heart
“As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men: ‘Even if she gathers amongst the sheaves, don’t embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don’t rebuke her.’” – Ruth 2:15-16
In the story of Ruth in the Old Testament, we are provided with a “gleaning tutorial” – the example of someone who went beyond just following God’s laws, but applied the heart of God by honouring his responsibility as family and neighbour, and ensuring the safety and dignity of Ruth, the gleaner.
As the church, we are called to see the world as our neighbour, to welcome everyone in as family, and to extend ourselves beyond simple charitable giving. We are also called to be like Boaz –someone who makes sure that vulnerable people are not shamed, embarrassed or harmed when the Church seeks to support and help them.
So what next?
It may be helpful to ask yourself some of these questions as you enter into a lifestyle of generosity, and dignified giving and receiving:
• What is the harvest of my life – the skills, time, relationships, money, stuff that I have to leave aside for the poor, the vulnerable, the widow and orphan?
• Do I have something other than “material wealth” to share, that I may have overlooked?
• What happens in my heart when I’m challenged not to “shake the olive tree a second time” (Deuteronomy 24:20)? Why do I sometimes want to hold onto things that I do not need, or find it so hard to give away the things I love?
• What is happening in my city, or even church, that may be causing vulnerable people harm or shame while trying to help them? How can I do things differently and speak up for change?
• How can we as the church help each other to see God’s laws being followed with God’s heart? How can we move beyond charity to relational giving and receiving?
Ways To Get Involved
Here are some practical things you can do:
• Help sort and prepare donations at The Warehouse during the week (09h30-16h30). Please telephone ahead of time if interested.
• Engage with Justice Saturdays: Come to The Warehouse the first Saturday of each month from 09h00-12h00 and get involved with a variety of fun activities including worship, prayer, bible studies, teachings and acts of service. Email The Warehouse for more info.
– Caroline oversees Church Mobilisation and Urban Gleaning at The Warehouse, a non-profit organisation based in Cape Town that exists to serve the local church in its response to poverty, division and injustice.
For other ways you can give of your time, treasure and talents, contact us.