"And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God." - Leviticus 19:10 (KJV)
These days, there is a certain tyranny that accompanies utmost efficiency and accountability. When every single seat on every single flight is booked, those on standby are always left stranded. When every slice of bread is sold to those who can buy it, those who can't afford it are left wanting. When every minute of the day is planned and prescribed, there is no time for unexpected interventions of the Holy Spirit.
Have you ever decided to attend an event at the very last minute, but it was so well-planned and executed that when you arrived there was not an empty seat to be found? Then, suddenly, you spot just one. You rush over and timidly ask the person seated next to it, "Is anyone sitting here?" The person smiles and says: "Yes, someone is sitting there. You are." And if the person is extra kind, she might add, "We reserved this seat just for you."
In our concerns over balanced budgets and fiscal accountability, how well are we planning to accommodate those who just arrived in our midst; those, who for countless reasons didn't feel welcomed until very recently; or those whose names were for so long either omitted or deleted from the invitation list; or those who got lost and just made it in?
In the book of Leviticus, God's call for holiness among God's people was a call for compassion to strangers and generosity to the poor. So important was this principle of holiness that God did not leave it up to individuals to come up with their own notions of what compassion and generosity in society meant. God's instructions were clear: generosity and compassion were to be built into the system of reaping and harvesting. Grapes and grain were to be intentionally left behind, and that which was left behind was not considered waste or entitlement. It was really a divine reservation for the poor and the unexpected stranger.
How prepared are we today to accommodate the strangers, the poor, and those in desperate need whom God sends along our paths? Someone is standing and looking for a seat. Is there room near you?
Dear God we thank you for not leaving generosity and compassion up to chance. Thank you for reserving a place for all of us who missed the first invitation by circumstance or neglect, for those of us who have just arrived. Amen.
Kenneth L. Samuel is Pastor of Victory for the World Church, Stone Mountain, Georgia.