A couple of weeks ago as I was on my way home from a Black Sheep rally in Meridian Idaho, I was riding through the beautiful Palouse region of Eastern Washington. Stunning countryside through there. Breathtaking, really. Before getting to the Palouse, I rode 95 through part of Hell’s Canyon. Some of those views were breathtaking as well – the river below, the pine trees, the winding roads. There were recreation areas I never knew existed. Clearly worthy of a trip back with a tent and a fishing pole someday. But the scenery drastically changed after pulling that long hill out of Lewiston, ID. From massive cliffs of age-old layers of sediment to golden rolling hills of wheat, barley, corn, and hay.
In 2022, Washington State was the third highest producer of wheat in the US with 144 million bushels. Only North Dakota and Kansas produced more wheat than Washington State last year (https://wagrains.org/wheat-production). That is not hard to believe when you spend hours and hours riding through hill and dell, passing more grain elevators than you thought existed. It was an amazing ride.
Perhaps what made it even more spectacular was the fact that the harvest season was in full swing. Puffs of wheat dust rising in the distance, only to see a solitary combine working the harvest. Passing semi-trucks with their bounty whenever the opportunity arose (which was quite often). And you know the farmers you’ve just passed by haven’t had more than a couple of hours of sleep. This I know from experience. But that’s another story for another day.
As we head into the harvest season this year, we are reminded that the weather is cooling. The days are getting shorter. Rides are becoming fewer and farther between (well – not if Slacker Ken has his way). Ready or not, the holidays are just around the corner. And at this time of year (more than any other time of year), we are reminded to care for those who are less fortunate. In fact, under Old Testament law, the children of Israel were bound to leave the corners of their fields unharvested so that there was plenty of food left over for the poor, the widow, the fatherless, and the foreigner.
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19: 9-10 (NKJV)
Deuteronomy furthers this idea:
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow.” Deuteronomy 24: 19-21 (NIV)
Obviously, most of us are not farmers these days. But we can certainly carry out the principle of leaving the “corners of the field” for those in need. There are victims of wars who have been displaced and without food. There are governments who oppress their people. There are regional famines and abject poverty all over the world. These are all very worthy causes. But we mustn’t forget that we don’t have to look far to see where there is need. You may not even need to look outside your neighborhood. So let me close with just one question for you.
What corners of your field can you leave unharvested on behalf of the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner?
Kerry S. “Chaplain”