Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “gleaning”

Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow

What answer will you give when asked by a future generation, “You knew and what did you do?” George Draper shares his post-LUTL reflections with us.

Photo Credit: ºNit Soto via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ºNit Soto via Compfight cc

Have you heard of the ‘Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’ shrub? The plant gets its name because its blooms come out deep purple, fade to lilac, and finally to white before they wilt. Recently, while looking after my grandsons, my thoughts drifted to their future and the future of our country, especially in a post-Mandela scenario. It struck me how this plant is a picture of three generations.

My grandsons represent the fresh generation full of colour and promise with us grandparents at the other, more faded, end. I now see ‘Yesterday’ as my generation – the one which conceived and implemented the apartheid system. ‘Today’ is my children’s generation born into the period of transition but still benefiting from apartheid’s lingering unequal distribution. ‘Tomorrow’ is my grandchildren’s generation born after 1994 with no real understanding of the past.

The freedom of 1994 meant different things to different people. For the ‘have-nots’, freedom meant being equal and the  possibility of ‘having’. For whites who struggled with being part of an unjust society, it was freedom from feeling guilty about being white. And some equated freedom with a ‘take what you can get’ open season.

“Freedom” now is a system badly flawed and certainly not what people sacrificed and died for. The reality is that the struggle isn’t over – it just looks different. The time has come to fan into flame our dormant passion and compassion – and to intentionally do something to make a difference.

My son once asked me about the apartheid era: ‘You knew and what did you do?’ My answer was to serve as a medical doctor working in rural and other underdeveloped areas. It was during this season of our life as a family that I realized that making a real difference would include not only health care but also doing something about poverty, education, income generation, housing and paying a livable wage to those I employed. Always acknowledging and treating people with respect was a given.

Recently, this took on an unusual form. I was looking after someone’s home and the domestic helper came in while I was there. Having made some plunger coffee I offered her a cup. She accepted and remarked that now she knew what the thing she’d had to wash so many times previously (i.e. the plunger) was actually used for. This simple offer and a chat was a way for me to make her feel ‘seen’ and appreciated.

What does a biblical perspective on this look like? Isaiah 58:6-12 gives an idea.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them…?”

God wants our service to go beyond our own personal spiritual growth to acts of kindness, charity, justice and generosity. True fasting is more than what we don’t eat; it is pleasing God by applying his Word to our society

These were the Scriptures Jesus knew and used. However, he took them to a new level of action. A generation before Jesus, a well-known Rabbi called Hillel was asked to summarize the Law while standing on one leg. His answer? ‘Whatever is hateful to you don’t do to your fellow.’ Jesus was asked a similar question. His answer stood on two legs: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart… The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’”. Hillel came with the minimum requirement. Jesus came with the maximum.

God’s focus on the poor, the widow, the orphaned and the foreigner hasn’t changed. Nor have the needs of this world, if anything they’ve increased. The Live Under The Line challenge was intended to raise our awareness of these issues. In our home we learnt a lot about how people living under the poverty line (‘them’) live in comparison to how we normally live (‘us’). It would be sad, no indeed wrong, if it remained ‘them’ and ‘us’. So what can we do?

It can be daunting to think of the depth of the need and inequality in our country, but a good place to start is by thinking of those people you can reach out to in your everyday space. Remember the biblical principle of gleaning where the one that has much deliberately leaves some for others less fortunate to collect. Why not apply this principle to the people you come into contact with every day?

Remember that one day – ‘tomorrow’ – the question will come in some form or other: ‘You knew and what did you do?’

 – George is a retired medical doctor and serves on the leadership team of the Common Ground Church Rondebosch AM congregation with his wife, Bev.

P.S. Interested in finding out more about the biblical concept of gleaning? We recommend reading, “What is Urban Gleaning?” by Caroline Powell

What have you been grappling with in the weeks since having done the Live Under The Line challenge?

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.

Photo Credit: downhilldom1984 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: downhilldom1984 via Compfight cc

“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:

• Donate items: Bring excellent quality goods to The Warehouse from 09h30-16h30. Click here for some guidelines.

• 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.

P.S. Other great reads on this topic: “How I’ve Learnt To Give” by Tim Hoffman and “Is It More Blessed To Give?”

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