Beat the Olive Trees1
If there are two words that I am trying to achieve day after day, they are productive and efficient. Mercy! In healthcare, that is what is ingrained in order to achieve maximum profit. As a mom, occupational therapist, cook, wife, and chauffeur, that is how I get everything done in a day. So, when I came across this verse in Deuteronomy, it just didn’t sit well with me: “When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.” Deuteronomy 24:20
Can you imagine your profession being one of an olive farmer, and the Lord commanding you to not go back to get the second harvest of olives? Uh..no. “I worked hard for this all year! These are the fruits of my labors! I have children to take care of and a family to provide for here! Then, people who are less efficient, not holding their own, or taking advantage of others’ hard work come and take the olives off your trees. I don’t think so!”
Think about that for a minute.
This is a command for God’s people. Why would he not want his people to get more income or higher yields, right? That’s what I’m thinking. But as I think about this, another situation comes to mind in the Bible where a lady takes a very expensive bottle of perfume and empties it on Jesus’ head. Apparently, I have good company, because what did the disciples say? “Why this waste?” But what did Jesus say? “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” Both of these instances are dealing with our responsibility. But, may I say from my own personal experiences as a Christian that some of my highest wage earning times, my most successful runs in my profession, my most involved times as a supportive wife and mother, my most involved times in the church and caring for those hurting…I was being responsible. However, I’m not sure how much Jesus was a part of my life during those times. What is the Lord’s point here? Yes, he is taking care of the poor, but for me (his child), what is he wanting? I believe He is wanting my heart, right?
Over and over, we are told that to be successful and for our children to be successful -> work hart, be responsible, and obey. Jesus is asking: “Are you talking to me? Are you enjoying me? Are you confiding in me about your heart? Are you finding me as the desire of your heart?” What I am learning is that responsibility and self-reliance can be the main things that make Jesus’ sweetness not so sweet.
So, as life occurs and the holidays approach, join me in exploring what not beating “your olive trees” a second time means in your life. Would you come and share it with me, too? Too often our hearts sound like Jimmy Stewart’s famous prayer in Shenandoah: “Lord, we cleared this land, we plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest, it wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-boned hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.”
Has Jesus lost His sweetness to you?