This Leviticus passage is of interest in that the LORD is instituting what amounts to a welfare program for the less fortunate among the nation Israel. The services are not instituted through a government agency, rather through those who can afford to be generous, out of humanitarian concern. Although, it can be argued that this was a government program, as were all other human activities, because Israel functioned as a theocracy at this time.
The purpose of this passage could not be clearer: we should, all of us that can, devise a means to help those that need our help, avoid dirty business dealings (vv.11-12), don’t cheat people (v. 13), and don’t spread lies (v. 16). Also sprinkled within the text amounts to threats “..nor shall you gather gleanings…” (v. 9) , “I am the LORD your God” and “…fear your God…”,on just about every verse. It appears God is saying “do this or else!”
In this Leviticus scenario it is humans that help humans. This is certainly a more humane way of dealing with this welfare business compared to an impersonal government agency mailing checks. In my opinion, there were two big losers in LBJ’s “Great Society.” The first were the recipients and givers of the help itself; the “personal touch” was removed from the process of welfare distribution by government agencies. The second were churches, who prior institutionalized welfare were the primary locals people turned to who needed help. I submit that those needy are not only in need of money, they have other needs that the government can’t attend to, these require something that only their fellow human can provide – a kind word, prayer, etc. And so, government is now the place; the needy turn to them rather than towards God’s help by way of His churches, as was done for thousands of years.
Finally, the last verse (v. 18) this “you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” is cited by both Jesus (Matt. 22:39) and Paul (Gal. 5:14). What does it mean to love one’s neighbor in our modern world?