What do you owe?

Just got a letter from the IRS that I owe them about $40 – I have paid off my taxes alright, but that is the interest and penalty from 2 years ago. Uncle Sam always gets you up to the last penny you owe him.

Leviticus 26:33 I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 34 Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35 All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.

In the Old Testament history of Israel, we learn that Israel have been unfaithful to the Lord and therefore the Lord punished them through exile into Babylon. We have learned that they were punished because of idolatry. Leviticus 26 put the exile in a different light. The exile is also a punishment for violating Sabbath.

When we reflect upon this statement, violation of Sabbath is indeed both a form of idolatry and a result of idolatry. Worshiping idols in pagan temples demonstrates a lack of Faith in one’s religious life, violating Sabbath demonstrates a lack of Faith in one’s social-economic life. If you decide to work on Sabbath instead of honoring the Lord, you are showing the world that you have more faith in your bank account than in the Lord’s provisions.

Leviticus 26 also tells us that when we violate Sabbath, we owe a debt to “the land”. I have explained in previous blogs that “the land” is not a inanimate piece of real estate. Instead “the land” is an organic entity God created to sustain both the rich and the poor, both domesticated animals and wild beasts – what we would call an ecosystem. When we violate Sabbath, the environmental condition worsens; the land cannot adequately provide for the poor, and social-economic conditions worsens.

The land belongs to the Lord, and the Lord will be its advocate. Back to the example of Old Testament Israel: let’s say the nation began with King David, who rose to the throne circa 1010 B.C – give or take a few years as David did not rose to power overnight. The nation was destroy by the Babylonian around  590 B.C. also give or take a few years because the were a few rounds of destruction. (Jerusalem was captured 586 B.C.) So the nation lasted roughly 420 years. For every six years of working the land there should have been one year of Sabbath. 420 divided by 6 is 70. How long was the Babylonian captivity? 70 years. (Jeremiah 25:11) Bad news – God is a good accountant.

How much debt have we accumulated as a society against the environment? How much debt have we accumulated against the poor? How much do you owe personally?

I have bad news for you and for all of us – God is a good accountant.

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Essential vs. non-essential

Isaiah 5:8 Woe to you who add house to house
and join field to field
till no space is left
and you live alone in the land.

Within the Sabbath regulation is an elaborate control over land ownership (Read Leviticus 25 if you need a refresher). That include provision for land to be redeemed to its original owner during the Year of Jubilee.

Had that provision been followed, the situation as described in Isaiah 5:8 would never have happened. Wealthy land owners would not be able to purchase large expanse of land and build huge mansions (add house to house) and large farms (join field to field cf. Lev. 19:9).

What is the consequence of violating Sabbath provisions? Economic collapse. As we see in the next verse:

Isaiah5:9 The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing:

“Surely the great houses will become desolate,
the fine mansions left without occupants.
10 A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath[a] of wine;
a homer[b] of seed will yield only an ephah[c] of grain.”

Those who are familiar with Old Testament history will realize that such collapse indeed occurred within the Northern Kingdom of Israel and led directly to its downfall.

Back to our modern time. We are not unfamiliar with economic collapses within our own generation. Our tendency to use land ownership as a mean of profit making has been and will be our downfall. Land belongs to the Lord. He grants us stewardship of the Land so that He can provide for everyone, rich or poor.

Be care not to use life’s essential resources as investment vehicle, or you may find yourself standing between the Lord and those He cares.

Leave some for others

Lev 19:9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.

Let me share the testimony of a elder in my church. In the past, he would mow his lawn on Sunday afternoons. He never thought of it as “work”. As he aged, it has become more and more taxing on his body for this weekly routine. What used to be a simple routine had slowly become a tiring job.

After hearing about the importance of keeping Sabbath, he decided to hire a neighbor to mow his lawn. Now, in this new arrangement, his neighbor appreciates the extra income. The elder has a more restful Sabbath and spends more time with his wife. His wife does not have to worry about him having a heart attack mowing the lawn. Friendship develop between the elder and his landscaping neighbor, and a door for the gospel is opened. Everybody win.

Modern management teaches maximizing profits. Sabbath teaches us to take a step back and remember that maximizing may not be optimizing. In our business life and our private life, leave some for others. Let other people help you even if you don’t necessarily need the help. Be careful that being “lean” does not become being “mean”.

Class notes for 12/2 Sunday School

啟蒙運動

  • 時間:17 至 18 世紀
  • 主要人物:
    • 巴魯赫·斯賓諾莎 (Baruch Spinoza)
    • 約翰·洛克 (John Locke)
    • 牛頓 (Isaac Newton)
    • 伏爾泰 (Voltaire)
  • 先承:笛卡兒
  • 後傳:康德

啟蒙運動的歷史背景

  • 因:
    • 教會長期專權
    • 東方(儒家)思想打開了非宗教的道德思想範例。
  • 果:
    • 法國大革命、美國獨立革命
    • 科學革命、工業革命

啟蒙運動對基督教的影響

  • 自然神論 (Deism)
  • 聖經批判 (Biblical Criticism)
  • 宗教寬容 (Religious Tolerance)

基督教之回應
基督教對啟蒙運動所引發的理性主義有四類的回應:

  • 接受理性主義
  • 拒絕理性主義
  • 回應理性主義
  • 反對理性主義

接受理性主義的神學思想

  • 自然神學 Deism
    • 接受神創造並掌管天地
    • 神賦予人理性思維
    • 否定神跡的可能性
    • 否定啟示的可能性 (包括聖經無誤)
    • 否定宗教的教條
    • 上帝是偉大的鐘表匠」
    • 例:Jefferson Bible
  • 基督教去神話化 Demythologized Christianity
    • 聖經中的「神話」是用來教化愚昧的民眾。
    • 現代理性的教導是應把基督教去神話化。
    • 這學派最出名的是二十世紀的德國神學家魯道夫·布爾特曼 Rudolf Bultmann
    • 例:基督的復活是神話。神話背後的真像是門徒從新振作,勇敢地跟隨和宣揚基督。所以基督是在「門徒的心裡復活」。
  • •道德基督教 Moral Christianity
    • 著重耶穌道德的教導。
    • 此觀點和回教對基督的教導相近。
  • 總結:
    • 保羅對希臘文化的回應。
    • 林前15

拒絕理性主義的神學思想

  • 基要主義(Fundamentalism)
    • 教會並不應力求現代化,亦不應受世俗的思潮影響。
    • 先是天主教,後是更正教,都有基要主義的興起。
    • 天主教看重傳統,更正教看重聖經。

回應理性主義的神學思想

  • 接受信仰應經過理性的驗証。
  • 基督教的信仰是可以驗証,並全然合理的。
  • 上帝不受自然規律的限制,所以神跡是可能並可信的。
  • 現代多有護教的著作是回應理性主義的作品。(例:鐵証待判)

反對理性主義的神學思想

  • 否定理性主義。
  • 「後現代」基督教
    • 人不是以理性生活為人生的目標。
    • 人生在世,每人都在編織自己的故事。
    • 信仰並不是科學的理論,而是一個偉大的故事,可以將世上每人的故事連結起來,讓人可以找到生命的意義。