Bread – Leftovers

May 21, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, May 21, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Lev. 19:1-18; 1 Thess. 5:12-28; Matt. 6:19-24; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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This morning, as I looked down at the bathroom counter, I observed a pile of change. Seeing that pile, I swept it up so that nothing was lost, and in this case put it all in my pants pocket. Sometimes, though, I will put all the change in a jar to collect dust until it accumulates to the point that it can be converted to “folding green” (paper money). I probably duplicate almost every person in the world in doing so.

We are surrounded by commands and actions of completeness – “Eat everything on your plate!” “Finish the task!” “Leave nothing to chance.” “Sweep clean!”

But in today’s reading from Leviticus, God tells us to leave leftovers. Specifically, what He says is “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare; neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 19:9-10

We are not to take it all, but to leave some for others who do not have what we have.

How does this work in real life?

As a mediator, I often see people enter negotiations with a zero-sum game mentality; meaning that I must win and you must therefore lose – if there are 10 chips on the table, then I must have all 10 and you must have nothing. Part of then what I need to do is to have the person begin to look at themselves and their motivations and needs more closely and ask themselves the question of whether them winning really means the other losing. When people get off their “all or nothing” mentality and start looking at what is really needed or start looking at the range of favorable and unfavorable outcomes, they often find that “winning” may be taking a majority of the chips (leaving some for the other) or actually only taking one chip (leaving most for the other).

Why do we want it all? Part of it is our “competitive spirit.” But another, more Satan-ish, part may be our greed, anger, idol-self, pride, bitterness, or just plain meanness.

The passage we are reading from in Leviticus is actually God reminding us that He is holy and calling us, as His disciples, to join Him in holiness. Leaving leftovers is part of being holy. Leaving things for others which are “rightfully” ours is a sign of holiness.

Why so?

To be holy is to be set aside for God’s purposes, not ours. And what does God command – that we worship Him first and that we “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves]” Lev. 19:18. There is no “love of I” in that prescription.

Leaving leftovers from our wealth for others is a sign of our holiness. It is a sign that we put God first and are therefore obedient to His commands, not out of duty but out of love and devotion. It is a sign that we put our neighbor first, because we do not insist that our rights be totally respected – we leave something of ourselves out of love for our neighbor.

When we leave something for others out of our wealth, it is not because we are giving up our rights … it is because we acknowledge our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It is because we acknowledge that we are not first. It is because we are set apart for God’s service, because we are holy.

So, have you spent everything you have on things so that nothing is left for others? Have you paid your employees only what you can get away with or the absolute minimum required or have you given them something of what otherwise would have gone into your pocket? Have you taken all your time for your priorities, or have you given of your time to others?

By these measures, how holy are we? I think the only fair answer, at least for me, is not as holy as we should be. On good days, maybe a little holy; most of the time, not so much.

Let us today commit to leaving behind for others some of our time, talent, and treasure. Let us strive to follow God; let us strive to be holy as God is holy. And in so doing, we will preach the good news of salvation in Christ alone by our actions, by our character, by our love, and by our leftovers.

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© 2014 GBF

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