Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

Fall 2016

Keywords

gleaning, poverty, capitalism, business ethics, transformation, solidarity, caritas, human dignity

Abstract

“Gleaning” refers to the mandate within the Mosaic Law that harvesters should leave behind “gleanings” for the sake of the poor who subsist on the literal and figurative margins of society. Although this biblical mandate is generally neglected and considered irrelevant in modern business practice, it holds powerful lessons to help guide modern businesses into transformational solidarity with the poor and marginalized. This paper interprets the biblical significance of gleaning, to discern how the principles of gleaning, though rooted in ancient agrarian culture, might be applicable to modern business which is generally far removed from agriculture. The exegesis and analysis presented here leads to the conclusion that the operative impact of gleaning can be described in terms of guiding principles that can be applied in present-day businesses. Thus, gleaning is shown to be a formative concept for business in every age, as an illustration of God’s will for a healthy economic system that intentionally invites the participation of those on the margins of society. In the course of this analysis, we develop a useful taxonomy of business practices pertaining to the principles of gleaning. This taxonomy is expressed in the form six characteristics: (1) sustainability for business, profits, market and society; (2) experiential links with the poor; (3) enhancement of human dignity; (4) disruption of the cycle of poverty; (5) grace-infused economy (caritas); and (6) revelation of transformational power (transformatio mundi). We illustrate these characteristics by examining several business case studies, using the rubric to arrive at an assessment of business relationships with those on the margins.