Provision for the Poor

And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. Ruth 2:2-3 

Scripture has much to say regarding the poor. There are both righteous and unrighteous poor people. The righteous poor include those who are widows (like Ruth and Naomi), orphans, sick, elderly, immigrants, and hard-working people who struggle to make ends meet, even such as our Lord Jesus. The unrighteous poor include those who are poor because of sin such as laziness, drunkenness, and foolish spending, as illustrated throughout Proverbs. 

God has an affectionate concern for the righteous poor and gives repeated and clear instructions throughout Scripture for how His people are to lovingly and mercifully meet their physical needs. For example, God’s people in the Old Testament were to allow the poor an opportunity to obtain food through the honest labor of gleaning (Leviticus 19:9–10, 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19–22). The equivalent today might be someone recycling cans to pay for groceries or volunteering at the food bank in exchange for food. The big idea behind gleaning was that the earth belonged to the Lord and that God’s people were required to share some of His provision with the poor as an act of His merciful provision for them. 

In short, the margins were left for the marginalized. In giving the poor an opportunity to work for their food, God also granted them a measure of dignity. This principle is to be continued today by God’s people as they share their blessings from Him with others in need, especially orphans and widows—which would include our society’s growing number of single mothers and their children.

In Ruth’s request to glean, we see that she was a woman of noble character, like the woman of Proverbs 31. She wasn’t prone to complaining but rather worked hard during a difficult season of life. Furthermore, she trusted the providential hand of God to permit her to “find favor” in someone’s eyes. Naomi, perhaps with some reservation for the woman she had come to love as her own daughter, agreed that they were in a dire and desperate place. So, Ruth ventured out in faith to find a field in which to glean food for them.

  • How can you leave a margin to provide for the poor?
  • Is there a situation in your life in which you need to venture out in faith to claim God's provision?