Deuteronomy 23:24, 25
When you come into your neighbor's vineyard, then you may eat grapes your fill at your own pleasure…
The mode and condition of human life in this world serve a moral purpose. A material body requires material food; material food implies material possessions. The use of these affords fine scope for the development of many virtues. Without material possessions, selfishness would scarcely be possible; nor could some moral qualities, as generosity, find a field for exercise.
I. EARTHLY ESTATE ADMITS ONLY OF A PARTIAL POSSESSION. We cannot retain for our exclusive use the beauty of the hills, or the fragrance of the flowers within territory called "our own." It is not possible for us to appropriate to our personal use all the products of our fields. Restrict the enjoyment as we may, we can succeed only to a limited extent. And why should we make the attempt? It adds immensely to our real pleasure to share the products with others. Indiscriminate appropriation of harvests would do good to no one. It would diminish productiveness. It would create waste; it would promote idleness. But profuse generosity is not only pleasurable: it is profitable. We gain the esteem of men. The whole community bands together to protect our crops. God smiles on our fields and our toil.
II. HUNGER HAS UNQUESTIONABLE CLAIM ON NATURE'S PRODUCTS. Be our skilful labor to secure a harvest what it may, the largest possible, yet we cannot forget that God too has contributed largely to make our fields productive. In God's contribution to the result, his poor ones ought to share. Lest the ordinary philanthropy of men might not suffice for this need of poverty, God himself has taken the poor under his sheltering wing; he has become their Champion, he has proclaimed a law for the protection of the needy. Inasmuch as God retains absolute proprietorship over all created things, and counts the richest men as his chief stewards, he has fullest right to determine on what conditions his bounty shall be enjoyed. When man has added his labor to the result, when he has garnered his crops, the condition is changed; but so long as it is standing in the field, hunger may find a meal.
III. THOUGH HUNGER HAS A CLAIM, COVETOUSNESS HAS NONE. The laborer or the weary traveler had a statutory right to relieve his existing hunger; he had no right to carry any fruit or corn away. This would be to abuse a precious privilege. "Thus far might they go, and no farther." The path of obedience always has been narrow. Here was a test of trust in God. He who has provided a meal for the hungry man today can also provide another meal tomorrow. Or, if one door is closed, cannot God open another? Covetousness is suicidal. In the long run it defeats its own ends. Careful obedience is a first fruit of genuine trust. Give a bad man an inch, and he will take an ell. By this he may be known. But a good man is as careful of another man's possessions as of his own. This is but another outcome of the command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: When thou comest into thy neighbour's vineyard, then thou mayest eat grapes thy fill at thine own pleasure; but thou shalt not put any in thy vessel.