It’s not every day that you get to take part in a historic biblical principle that dates back thousands of years. Early last month we were able to. Tim, Gabe, and I picked potatoes. You may be confused and wondering what potatoes have to with history, or the Bible, or anything other than french fries. Well, dear reader, hang in there and it will all come together. In the Old Testament, God instructed the Israelites to leave some of their harvest behind around the edges of their fields so that the poor could come and collect what was left over. This was called gleaning (Leviticus 23:22 is one example of this). This was one of the ways that God wanted His people to provide for the poor, the aliens, and the widows in the land. God is really cool like that. He takes care of us.
The book of Ruth tells the story of a young girl, Ruth, who after the death of her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law, decided to leave her family and remain with her mother-in-law, Naomi, and go back to Israel after a famine. Two widows living on their own would have no way of making a living outside of the kindness of others. This is where the biblical principle of gleaning comes in. Everyday Ruth would go to the field of a man named Boaz and go behind the harvesters and pick up whatever wheat was left over. She would then bring it home to Naomi and they would make their bread from it. This actually turns out to be a great love story as Naomi hatches a plan to get Boaz to marry Ruth and “redeem” them. That’s in the Bible? Yeah it is, check it out for yourself!
There are quite a few potato fields around our neighborhood. When they began to harvest the potatoes we were told that anyone could go and pick up the extra potatoes that the machines left behind. My husband and son were drawn to the field because of their excitement to see the harvesting tractors in action, I was excited to pick up enough fresh potatoes to last all year round. We grabbed plastic bags and trudged through the dirt selecting ripe potatoes of every shape and size. Gabriel even helped (although he seemed to prefer the green, unripe ones. We had to throw them out of the bag when he wasn’t looking.). As we filled bag after bag of potatoes I couldn’t help comparing myself to Ruth. Thousands of years after Ruth lived, here I was in a field following the harvesters picking up the gleanings. In that moment, her story became that much more real to me. She became not just a name but a real person who lived and loved the same God that I do. And that’s worth digging in the dirt for potatoes.