By Michael Kelley
Christmas is an ironic time for most of us I think:
Though we are celebrating the rest that only comes through Christ, it’s one of the busiest times of the year.
Though we intend to this year to engage in meaningful holiday traditions and enjoy our families, we end up stressed out by them instead.
Though we are remembering the greatest gift coming in the birth of Jesus Christ, we go into greater debt in this month more than any other.
We find ourselves feeling the way Bilbo Baggins felt in The Fellowship of the Ring: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” How true. This is one of the times of year in which we have very little margin. We find ourselves, despite our best intentions, spread thinly in our money, our time, and our emotions. To use another illustration, we tend to plow to the edge of our fields. We use all of everything we have – all our money. All our time. All our energy. All our everything – and sometimes more.
Interestingly, there is a passage in Leviticus that specifically prohibited the people of God from plowing to the edges of their fields:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you are not to reap to the very edge of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not strip your vineyard bare or gather its fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the resident alien; I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:9-10).
God did not want His people going to the edge. He wanted them to have some margin on the edge. This command, though, wasn’t just about preserving His own people. He didn’t tell them to create this kind of margin because doing so is personally healthy and psychologically balanced. He gave the command for the sake of other people who might wander into those fields.
God is so concerned about the poor and the foreigners that He built in a means into the regular life of His people in order to provide food for them. He made sure that the people didn’t harvest all the way to the edges of the field. Some days the people might not come; other days they would. Regardless, the edges of the field were “just in case.”
- Just in case there is someone traveling who needs food.
- Just in case you have the chance to share with someone who is in need.
- Just in case someone else needs to feed their family.
- Just in case the leftovers can be useful after all for something other than giving you more.
See it? This command defies the constant call of our culture for “more.” We live in a margin-less world. Our calendars are booked with meetings and appointments end to end. So are our pocketbooks. In fact, everything from our time to our money is pretty much spoken for. We are plowing to the end of the fields. In fact, we are going back over the fields of our lives a second and third time, looking for any spare cent or second that has not been accounted for.
But what if this Christmas things were different? Instead of a marginless holiday season, one in which we have gone all the way to every proverbial edge in life, we actually had a “just in case” mentality? What if we left some time in our schedule just in case we had the opportunity to listen to someone who has trouble around the holidays? What if we left a little unspent money just in case we had the opportunity to provide for a family who was having a tough year financially? What if we intentionally didn’t go all the way to the edge because, in faith, we believed that God would bring a stranger or the poor or the resident alien our way?
What if we had a “just in case” Christmas?
Good things can happen when we live with a sense of “just in case.” In fact, you might even say that the very first Christmas was because someone lived with this sense. Because during some dark days of Israel, days of great idolatry, there was still a man who took seriously the law of God and didn’t plow to the edges. Because he didn’t, a young widow named Ruth was able to glean the wheat from the edges in order to provide food for her and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Boaz, the owner of the field, ended up marrying the gleaner Ruth, and a few generations later comes Jesus Christ.
Great things can happen when you don’t plow to the edges of your life. Amazing things can occur when you live with a “just in case” mentality.
Michael Kelley is the Sr. Vice President of Church Ministries at Lifeway and author of Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life.