19 “When you reap the harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to get it. It is to be left for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you knock down the fruit from your olive tree, do not go over the branches again. What remains will be for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left. What remains will be for the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow. Deuteronomy 24:19-21 CSB
Hey guys! Welcome back to the PSALMS to God podcast.
So when I was 14, my parents decided that I should get a job, and of course at 14 there aren't that many options for a job, but I managed to get a job at a fast-food restaurant. And it was quite possibly the worst job I've ever had in my entire life. People are rude. People are really rude. If you're a fast food employee, know that I sympathize with you, and I promise if I ever come in your store I will not be rude to you, no matter what happens. You know, when I first started there I had no idea what I was doing. I had never had a job before—I was 14—and they gave me no training. They just kind of threw me up there and when things didn't come out right, whether it was my fault or what it was the people in the back’s fault or whether it was actually the customer’s fault because they didn't order whatever they thought they ordered, most of the time I got cussed out—and when I say that, I mean there were customers that would come in and just curse you out. Never mind the fact that I was a 14-year-old child, and I've always look young for my age, so I probably looked about 10. I don't really know how people can get it in their spirit to cuss out a child, but they did.
And I hated that job, but I had plans for that money when I got my first paycheck. I was like, “when I get this paycheck, I'm going to buy all the stuff that my mom said I could not buy,” and you know my parents were saying that I didn't need that I just wanted. And I was going to buy everything that I wanted. So the day came that I got that paycheck. And y’all, that pay check was scarce! If my memory serves me correct I got about $20, and that $20 probably wouldn't have even covered the gas that it took my mom and dad to get me to work for those two weeks. I mean I don't even know if I could have bought one thing that I wanted with that. Most of it probably went to food. I was a big fan of buying food—I'm still a big fan of buying food—so I probably spent the money on food.
But I was so upset. I didn't understand. You know, I was good at math, so when I calculated out how many hours I worked verses the hourly rate that I was supposed to make, $20 was not the number I was coming up with. Of course, this is the moment that I started to understand taxes like you know America was founded on, you know, the whole slogan “taxation without representation”—and yet children can’t vote but we still get taxed! You know, I'm not going to—that’s not what this episode is about, though. We’re not going off into that tangent.
What I want to talk about is the feeling that I had when I realized how much money the government was taking out of my check, to the feeling that I have now the government is still taking money out of my check, and to what is taught in the Bible about how we are supposed to be providing for those who are less fortunate than us—and the connection of those things.
So like I said, at 14 I was livid. I did not understand and I was not happy about it. At 30, I don’t look at my actual pay stub. I looked at it at the very beginning when I first worked there just to make sure everything was right and it looks reasonable. Now I do not look at it; I just look at what actually goes into my account, because if I stop and think about how much money the government is taking I probably will still feel some type of way. But the fact of the matter is the Bible teaches us that we're not supposed to take every single drop of our labor—the fruit of our labor—and take it for ourselves.
Leaving a Little on the Table (00:05:46)
So in the Bible, it specifically mentions fruit vines, olive trees—things that would have been very common to the people of Israel at this time. This was an agrarian society, so pretty much all of their wealth and all of their livelihood would have came from the crops and the things that they were growing. Today we live in a different type of society where the fruit of our labor is actually monetary most of the time. And so what God was saying in the passages that I read at the very beginning of the episode from Deuteronomy 24 the last couple of verses, is that the people were not supposed to pick every single fruit off of the bush. They were supposed to leave some behind. And after they had gleaned it—I don't know how many of my listeners are actually farmers or have had like a garden even like a little tiny, you know, kitchen garden or something like that—a lot of times when you pick things you might pick every single ripe thing on the bush but things may come back later and there may be a second harvest or maybe you just get one more fruit that you missed or something like that.
They weren't supposed to go back and claim that. All of that was supposed to be left for those who didn't have anything, and if you follow through the Old Testament, any time they mention the widows, the fatherless, the strangers or the foreigners, they're always talking about the people who were the poorest in society. People who have less opportunity. The people who are not necessarily afforded rights the way that other people were; they were supposed to be protected and taken care of. And one of those ways was by leaving this food so they could come and get it. And when they would come to get this food there was no expectation that they would pay the owner of the field for it. It was just it was just known that you know after the harvest, whatever was left would be for those people.
So for instance, the second job that I ever had, it was also in Food Services but it was not at a fast food place. It was at a water park, and one of the things I learned at that place was that at the end of the day we were supposed to throw away all of the food that was left over. So if we had leftover hamburgers or leftover hot dogs or whatever, we were supposed to throw it away; we weren't supposed to save it and like reheat it and serve it the next day. That was against some sort of DHEC rule or violation. Now, in that same city, just down the street—like maybe like a block down the street—was a place where most of the homeless, the poor, there were also some unsavory characters—those people live very, very close to where I worked. And so, you know, sometimes they did venture that far up, sometimes the didn't, but we were also not allowed to give the food to them, which makes no sense to me. It didn't make sense to me then; it doesn't make sense to me now. But it would have made so much more sense: we have this leftover food, we can't sell it, nobody wanted it, we are not allowed to serve it the next day, why can't we just give it to the homeless people who have no food? That makes so much more sense than throwing away perfectly good food.
And one of the reasons that I wanted to bring up this topic is because this is near and dear to my heart on a two-fold spectrum. So obviously because God commands us to take care of the poor, and so we're supposed to be providing some sort of services with quote-unquote our leftovers. But also because this is also what my research focused on when I was doing my PhD. So my research was more so from a technological standpoint of how to monitor and present information on food waste, but it was about food waste none-the-less. And about how America wastes 40% of the food that we cultivate. That's a lot of—that's almost almost half! Almost half of the food that we produce in America gets thrown away, and it's for reasons like this. There are also things about how grocery stores operate the fact that they have these massive bins of apples, oranges, and celery, or whatever produce that you're buying. All of that is there just so that we feel like we chose the fruit that we want, or we chose the the produce that we want. And when you have less stuff in there, we are less likely to buy, because we feel like it's picked over and we don't have options, blah blah blah blah blah. In reality they're buying way more than they can sell because at no point do they only want two oranges in the bin. Even though you're only going to buy two oranges, you're not going to buy the two oranges that are there, you want to be able to choose which oranges you buy. So they buy excess, more than they know that they're going to sell, so that even when that last customer comes in, there's something for them to choose from.
The problem is produce doesn't last forever. So that means that at the end of the week, a lot of this food has gone to the bad. I know me personally, I've gone in the grocery stores on multiple occasions and pulled up—out—you know like a piece of fruit that has mold on it, and I'm like, “That's gross! Like it's already molded”—now I don’t want any of it. This is part of the reason why, because they're overstocking, but then they have to throw away food. And it's mind-boggling because there are people who are starving. Obviously, you know there are countries that are having this problem—whole countries. I know like Venezuela had a food shortage problem—I think they still have a food shortage problem. Meanwhile in America, we're wasting 40% of our food.
But then right here in America, we have people who are struggling to have food. I think it's somewhere on the order of—oh the number is escaping me. I will post it in the transcripts if you're curious, but it's something like 1 in 6 Americans have what's called food uncertainty, meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from. And that is one too many. So you know, it should be 0 in 6, is what I mean.
There is a lot of trouble with getting food to people who need food because everybody needs food, and so I just think it's interesting because it's something we really don't talk about in the church. And it's a problem that should be talked about in the church, not only because it's a humanitarian issue, but also because it's commanded of us in the Bible to take care of these people and to make sure that they have what is necessary.
Christian Duty (00:13:30)
And one of the reasons I wanted to bring it up in this particular time, in this particular moment, also you know as we inch closer and closer to 2020 and election season, something to keep in mind is that, like I said, we have a duty and a responsibility as Christians to take care of the less fortunate and those who do not have. But also to remember that when you don't have basic necessities, particularly when you're talking about food, when we are talking about shelter, things like that that. That is what drives people to desperation; that is why people wake up and do crazy things—whether it's they’re committing violent acts or crimes or whether it's that they decide to go sell drugs or something super reckless. When you wake up and you can't feed your children, you can't feed your family, and you feel like you have no other option, that's when you do desperate things—and it makes sense, because you're trying to get your basic necessities.
So if we as people who can spare that one, you know, as the Bible says, the one or two olives that are left on the tree, if you have just anything to spare. If you can leave that behind for those people, and you know they're gathering a little bit from me, a little bit from you, a little bit from over there, then it eases that tension. It eases that need to go off the deep end and do something drastic to get those necessities, because we're actually providing for them. And so as a society, we are responsible for each other. And so I would just urge you, and myself, that as you go through your life and you go through your day-to-day life, don't necessarily focus on what you want and how hard it is for you to get what you want, because there are other people who have even less. There's always somebody that has less than you And we have a duty to not let ourselves get caught up in the capitalist, consumerist ideology that is pedaled to us in our society today.
I definitely, you know, as I was getting ready to do this podcast and as I sat down and thought about it, I am blessed beyond what I should be blessed with. There is nothing that I could ask more for. Everything that I could need, I have, and that is exactly the lesson my parents wanted me to learn when they made me get that job, that very first job. They wanted me to understand the importance of want versus need. Yeah sure I want a house with a pool—a private pool—that would be really nice down here in South Florida. I can't afford that, but I don't need that, you know. There are lots of things that I see that would be nice to have just to have. I love to just be able to jet off on vacation all the time, I can't do that. But I have all of the necessities; I can pay my rent, I have a place, I have a roof over my head, my refrigerator is stocked, and I know where my next meal is coming from. And that is something to be thankful for. Everybody doesn't have that. And when I think about that, I realize that I owe it to myself to not forget that, and one of the ways that helps me not to forget that is just like God said: is to make sure that I'm giving back to other people. So whether that's financially, whether that's with your time, whether that's just by stopping and being nice to somebody, just trying to make their day better, whatever you have left in you, make sure you can give it to somebody else to help them.
Wrap Up (00:18:02)
OK so that ended up being a little bit longer than I intended or expected, but it's a topic that's near and dear to my heart and so I wanted to say all that I had to say. I hope that you will think about it throughout the week and that you will pay it forward. So the transcript for this particular episode will be on the website at www.psalmstogod.com/generosity. Thank you guys for listening and for tuning in. Don't forget to like and subscribe. Follow of me on social media, whatever floats your boat. I can't wait to talk to you guys again. See you next time.
References and Footnotes
- I meant “No taxation without representation” was the slogan, taxation without representation was the problem, but y’all understood what I meant, I hope. (No Taxation without Representation)
- Clearly I’m not a child anymore; I don’t know why I said we instead of they but that’s what I said.
- This is evident in the story of Ruth, who secured food for her and her mother-in-law from the fields of Boaz
- Dana Gunders. Wasted: How America is losing up to 40 percent of its food from farm to fork to landfill". Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper, IP: 12-06-B. August 2012
- "Venezuela crisis: How the political situation escalated". BBC. January 24, 2019
- OK, so at some point yes there is one person where no one has less than them; but this is not just in reference to tangible objects and when you start counting the intangible and mixing it in, you’re comparing apples to oranges, then it gets complicated.