Gleaning is the traditional Biblical practice of gathering crops that would otherwise be left in the fields to rot, or be plowed under after harvest. The biblical mandate for the practice comes from Deuteronomy 24:19,
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.
Gleaning provided the poor with a way to use their own labor to provide for their needs. For us today, the practice provides a useful Biblical model for how we can help others to help themselves. “Those with wealth are to provide opportunities for the poor to rise out of poverty,” writes Marvin Olasky, in Renewing American Compassion, “the typical starting point in the Old Testament was gleaning.”
Although gleaning is still practiced and the traditional agricultural meaning of the term still relevant, I believe the underlying principle can be expanded to include a broader range of “opportunities for the poor to rise out of poverty.”
For instance, over the past hundred years, the Western world has benefited from an exponential increase in technology. But the world’s poorest citizens have not always been able to benefit directly from these innovations. If we really wish to help our poorest neighbors we need to encourage the creation, expansion, and distribution of technological innovations that can provide opportunities for them to improve their living conditions and to rise out of poverty.
Much work is already being done in this area, of course, so in an occasional series of posts I’ll be highlighting some of the innovations and developments in “gleaner technology.” For this series, the term “gleaner tech” refers to (a) low-cost, sustainable technologies that are created by those in poverty, (b) inexpensive innovations that are provided directly to the poor, and (c) technologies provided that can increase the productive labor of the poor and allow them to improve their lives and the lives of their neighbors.
If you know of gleaner tech that should be included in this series, please send suggestions to me at email@example.com.