Is Gleaning Redistribution of Property?

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about over the past few days…especially after reading this article.

What really got me thinking was this statement,

There are thousands of Biblical passages and example that call for helping the poor and relieving the oppressed. Wallis and his ilk are right to point this out. But there is not a single verse that authorizes government to redistribute wealth for this purpose. Wallis and his ilk never mention this. There is no passage that allows government to coerce giving, impose socialistic schemes, to use force to take from some people and give to others. Taking private property—whether done by individuals or by governments—the Bible describes and condemns as theft and corruption. There are dozens of passages that teach this and none that justify socialism.

Right away, my mind jumped to gleaning: the practice commanded by God that leaves a portion of the crop in the field for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the sojourner.

Is gleaning a Biblical example of redistribution of property and therefore “socialist”?

Gleaning in the Bible

Gleaning appears twice in the Bible: first in the Holiness Code of Leviticus and second in the Deuteronomic Code of Deuteronomy.

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. (Leviticus 19:9-10)

When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this. (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

Yes, these groups had to work by going out and gathering the leftovers from the fields, but the question still remains, is gleaning an early form of welfare and redistribution of wealth and property, and thus a socialist practice?

I don’t have an answer to this and would like to know what y’all think.


One thought on “Is Gleaning Redistribution of Property?

  1. I thought immediately of these passages as well. The things that strike me first when I think of your project in relation to the OT is that we have here God’s direction through His Prophet Moses who speaks for Him.
    We have God talking about the use of His own property as He has given it to the Israelites to administer. Not only is this a theocracy, ruled indirectly by God, but it exists in a time before, as you’d aver, revelation ended.
    Second, I’d have to wonder exactly how private was this property. It was gained collectively and divided collectively. The ‘owners’ did not have sole discretion as to its future dispensation and its fate was always under the ultimate purview of the theocracy.
    So I’m not entirely sure the first premise, that of private property, applies here.

    But God did demand the Israelites steal property and move into the houses and use the furnishings and possessions of the previous inhabitants of the land. How would you apply this command today?

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