************ Sermon on Leviticus 19:9-10 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 25, 2015
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-10; Luke 10:25-37
"Be Holy by Looking After the Hungry"
World Hunger Sunday
Last week's issue of TIME magazine has a special report entitled "Exodus." Not the exodus from Egypt. Instead, the exodus from Syria and other countries embroiled in civil war. According to the article some sixty million migrants are on the move worldwide. Rarely in modern history have so many been so desperate to flee. Their brave, and tragic, journeys are reshaping Europe and the world. The pictures in the article are simply heartbreaking ...
If there is one thing we should learn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan, it is this: we are called to be a neighbor to the refugees TIME magazine talks about.
I don't know if you noticed it or not, but Jesus doesn't really answer the question of the expert in the law. This Pharisee asked, "Who is my neighbor?" (Lk 10:29). To the Pharisee, my neighbor is the person who is like me, who lives the life I live and follows the same practices that I do. So when this expert in the law asked Jesus "Who is my neighbor?" he was trying to put limits on the definition of neighbor. But Jesus turns it around. "Who is my neighbor?" gets turned into "Am I being a neighbor?"
I What does it Mean to be a Neighbor
What does it mean to be a neighbor? For the children of Israel, to be a neighbor means making sacrifices for the poor and alien. Sacrifice was demanded and expected. Not sacrifice to our God, but sacrifice for our neighbor. They didn't have big farms back then; it might be an acre or two or five but certainly not the sections containing 640 acres that we have today. They might have four or five olive trees; certainly not the huge groves that we have. They might have a row or two of grapes; certainly not the row after row that we see. Yet what did God say, what did God command?
(Lev 19:9-10) 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. (10) Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.Think about this. The field, grove, and orchard were not all that big to start with. But they were commanded to leave part of the harvest for the poor and alien.
Do you hear what God is saying? In our reaping, we must consider others. This is a matter of the heart!
Do you consider the needs of others as you go about your reaping? When you work and do business and make plans do you only think about the bottom line or do you consider also the poor and needy?
A couple of weeks ago we looked at the eighth commandment as it is explained in the Catechism. Based upon the Bible, the Catechism give us a sanctified view of work: "I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need" (Q & A 111). I don't work just so I can look after my needs and the needs of my family. I don't work just so I can feather my own nest. I also work to share with those in need.
Do you have this perspective about your work and business? Are you a neighbor to those in need?
II Who is Called to be a Neighbor
A Whose responsibility is it? Who is called to be a neighbor? Leviticus is talking to God's people:
(Lev 19:9-10) 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. (10) Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.Six times we hear the use of you and your.
It is the people of God who are called to minister to those in need. They are to look after all those in need. Especially, they are to look after whose who belong to the family of believers (Gal 6:10).
Jesus wants each and every one of us to ask, am I a good neighbor, do I act like a neighbor, do I look after those who are in need? Like the Good Samaritan, we are to go out of our way to help others -- in spite of the inconvenience, in spite of the cost, in spite of the disapproval of others.
Remember why the office of deacon was created? So that those in this office could look after the daily distribution of food. So that those in this office could look after the needs of the widows and orphans (Acts 6:1-7).
B In God's scheme of things, it is God's people, the church, who are expected to help the needy.
Which means that somewhere along the line we took a wrong turn when we let our social programs be hijacked by the government. The government is not as efficient as God's people. The government is not as loving as God's people. In fact, most government programs are flat out failures that do nothing but lock people into an endless cycle of poverty and desperation. The government is not God's choice for how the hungry should be fed.
III Why we are to Act as a Neighbor
A Why are we to act as a neighbor? Knowing the sinful condition of man's heart I am about to say something for which I have not a shred of evidence. Undoubtedly, some Israelite somewhere kept track of how much of his field was left for the needy as compared to what his neighbors left for the needy. Perhaps he bragged about it to his wife and his neighbors: "So and so left three rows of corn/wheat/oats but I left four rows." Perhaps a group of farmers compared notes in the coffee shop. Perhaps there was even a gleaning war: Who leaves the most for the poor?
Jesus took a very dim view of this practice. In fact, He condemned it:
(Mt 6:1-4) Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (2) "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (3) But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.We do not give for the glory of ourselves and our name. Ananias and Sapphira went that route. They wanted the glory of being sacrificial and generous givers. They pretended to be more generous in their giving than they really were. Remember what happened with them? They were struck down by the Holy Spirit (Acts 5)!
B Why, then, should we act as neighbors to the poor and needy? "Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2). That's what our Bible reading says. Being a neighbor is what we are to do as God's holy people.
Holy is something we were at the time of creation. But holiness is what we lost when we fell into sin. And holy is something we become again when we have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Now that Jesus has provided purification for sins by His dying and rising, now that Jesus has made us holy, we are to live as God's holy people.
Did you catch the statement at the end of verse 10? "I am the LORD your God." Our Bible uses the name LORD; in the Hebrew the name is Yahweh. This is the covenanting God. This is the God Who loves us in Christ Jesus. This is the God Who loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16). Be holy, act holy, be a neighbor, because I am the LORD your God. In other words, be a neighbor because I love you in Christ.
C There is almost a similar command in Deuteronomy 24. It mentions gleanings of the fields, olive orchards, and vineyards. And here is the reason:
(Deut 24:22) Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.At one time the people of Israel also were aliens. At one time they also were poor and destitute. At one time they too were hungry and wanting. Remember this. Remember your past. Remember how God has blessed you. Therefore, be a blessing to others.
D It should be obvious that the law of gleaning was meant to help those in need. Not those who want. I would like a new computer or tablet. I would like a brand new car. I would like a new bike. But I don't need any of them. Who are the needy? They are those who do not know the when and where of their next meal? It is those who go to bed hungry at night. It is the refugees we see in last week's TIME magazine.
Now, I know what I am about to say will not make me popular in liberal circles. I want you to notice that the poor and hungry, if able, are expected to help themselves. Like Ruth the Moabitess, they are expected to work for their food. They are expected to go to the fields, the vineyards, and the olive groves and glean. No free handouts. No enabling of a slothful lifestyle. No giveaways without strings attached. It was hard work that Ruth did in the fields of Boaz. It was hard manual labor.
IV Where do we Act as a Neighbor
A Where do we act as a neighbor? Remember the viewpoint of the Pharisees? The neighbor is the person who is like me, who lives the way I do, who lives in my community. Picture a circle -- like a hula hoop -- in your mind. The Pharisees put that circle around their family and friends.
Until the 1950's most people in the U.S. had little awareness of people outside their community, let alone people across the vast stretches of oceans that separate us from the rest of the world. But that has changed over the last 50 plus years. Technology and transportation has allowed us to not only see instantly the lives of other people on the planet; but to have personal access to people all over the world.
So, we know what is going on elsewhere. We know what is happening in Syria and the Middle East. We know what is happening in Africa and Asia and Australia. We know about the needs, the hunger, the desperation. So, am I being a neighbor to the world's refugees? Am I being a neighbor to the boys and girls orphaned by war? Am I being a neighbor to those suffering hunger because of drought in Papua New Guinea?
So who is your neighbor today? And for whom are you responsible? Everyone!
B Listen to how Jesus put it to the disciples on two separate occasions after His resurrection:
(Mt 28:19-20) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.So where is the circle drawn by Jesus in the Great Commission? Around all the nations. Now listen to what Jesus said in Acts:
(Acts 1:8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.So where does Jesus draw the circle this time? In ever widening ripples that go from our neighborhood, to our country, to our enemies, and from there to the ends of the earth.
So who are we, as disciples of Jesus, responsible to love? We are responsible to love our neighbors near and far. We can’t escape the fact that we live in a global village. That means that the needs of the people on the block, across the country, and in the third world are of concern to us.
V How do we Act as a Neighbor
How do we act as a neighbor? In Old Testament Israel it was a simple matter of leaving some of the crop for the poor and alien. But today most of us are not farmers. We are teachers and sales people and mechanics and secretaries and accountants and pastors. So how do we act as neighbors today? How can we make a difference today?
As I told the boys and girls, we can give to Word & Deed through our offerings or through the Peter Fish program. We can join a Word & Deed business group; did you know we have eight members in our church who have pledged $21,000 for an agricultural project in Nicaragua and a medical project in Guatemala? We can give to Love INC. We can give to Visalia Rescue Mission. We can give to Visalia Emergency Aid. We can volunteer with Food Link or Visalia Gleaners. We can give to our church's benevolent fund -- which is mostly used to help the poor and needy in our own church family. I want you to realize that as people saved by Christ we have endless opportunities to act as a neighbor towards the poor and needy.
VI When do we Act as a Neighbor
My last question concerns the when? When are we to act as a neighbor?
(Lev 19:9-10) 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. (10) Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.In Old Testament Israel they were to act as a neighbor every time they harvested wheat, grapes, and olives. Since these crops become ripe at different times of the year, this becomes a call to always act as a neighbor towards those in need. It wasn't just once a year on World Hunger Sunday. It was a daily occurrence.
I hope you see it is a matter of the heart. Are you generous? Are you a neighbor? Or, are you selfish? Do you think only of yourself and your own family? People who experience God's compassion and love every day want to show that same love and compassion to others every day. That's what it comes down to.
(Lev 19:9-10) 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. (10) Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.The Lord Jesus is talking to people of faith. The Lord Jesus is talking to people whose faith is alive and active. The Lord Jesus is talking to people whose faith reveals itself through good works. These deeds of love do NOT make us righteous in God's eyes, but they do show that we trust Him alone for our salvation. So let me ask, as people of faith are you a neighbor to the poor and hungry?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page