Excess capacity

Lev 25:3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you—for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

One of the first questions people ask when I talk about Sabbath is “what should we do on Sabbath?” For those of us who are so used to being busy all the time, finding something to do is a genuine challenge. Surely we cannot sleep through the entire day. After we minus the 8 hours of sleep and 3 hours of church, we still have 13 hours of not knowing what to do.

If we have a problem staying still for one day, imagine how we can survive for a Sabbath year. Even when we think we are secured in finance and career, we just cannot image having nothing to do for a year.

When we read Leviticus 25, we can see that even without sowing and pruning, the land will produce something. Living systems are constantly productive. Somebody who is truly alive will always be creative. We are so used to being crowded by “sowing and pruning” that we have forgotten to be naturally creative. It is when we intentionally cease “artificial production” that we can discover our natural productivity.

What do you want to do on Sabbath? Do things that naturally come to you. Painting, poetry, make music, hanging out with friends. You will be amazed how productive you are when you are not trying.


The Year of Jubilee

Read Leviticus 25:8-54

Leviticus 25:23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers. 24 Throughout the land that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.

When we read through Leviticus 25, we will discover a parallel between law regarding the Promised Land and law regarding the Israelites. Both begin with the premise that they belong to the Lord. The land belong to Him and the Israelites belong to Him. Therefore the buying and selling of either land or slaves have to be governed by His decree.

While modern day economy is much more complex than ancient agricultural Israel, modern day productivity depends on just the same principles – natural resources and human resource. Sadly, both natural resources and human resources have been abused by the industrial world.

We have learned (recently and through some hard reality) to emphasize on sustainability of natural resources. We try not to cut down trees without replanting them. When are we going to realize that human resources also need to be sustainable? In biblical time, when agriculture was the main economic activity, God ordained laws to regulate land ownership and slavery. In modern time for a society to be sustainable, we need a different set of rules.

While there is no official slavery in a modern economy, we have to ask ourselves how exploitation of cheap labor in sweat shops around the world is different from slavery. While we know how to replant trees, we have to ask ourselves why we are not re-training workers when their skills become obsolete in this fast pace technologically driven economy. We diligently recycle our paper, we fire our employee as if they are disposable.

Let us proclaim the Year of Jubilee. That was Jesus’ message on earth.