Having and Having Not (Leviticus 25)

A life coach, psychologists and a theologian stumble into a blog and…

I know this sounds like the opening of a joke, but seriously, these experts come from three differing sets of beliefs and practices.  Yet, there is a greater truth that connects the three. Read the following quotes and then we’ll jump into Leviticus 25.

  • “At the end of the day, your relationships with the people in your life will be greater assets than any material things. Take time. Be present. You’ll thank yourself for it later.”― Vironika Tugaleva, author of The Love Mindset
  • “The pursuit of material-external things as if they can provide deep and lasting happiness is contributing to a dwindling of real meaning and is a factor contributing to an increase in mental health problems. It just isn’t possible to fill the hole inside us by piling up the things outside us.” ― Dr. Stephen McKenzie and Dr. Craig Hassed, authors of Mindfulness for Life
  • “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?”  ― John Wesley, founder of Methodism, a branch of Protestant Christian thinking

The American Dream has long been about the “pursuit of happiness”. In contemporary times, that has been reduced to having stuff. Personal gain, whether in profit or popularity, drives the American conscience. Among the world’s elite powers, Americans take less time off and plan fewer vacations. American workers would rather cash in vacation days for bonus pay rather than rest. The drive to pursue stuff and to consume what we own is very much a part of the regular American day-to-day experience. And for what end?

According to Fortune.com, depression, loneliness and dissatisfaction with life are rising trends among America’s working class. The research goes on to postulate that the newest generation of American workers may be the least stable generation on record. (http://fortune.com/2016/04/28/young-workers-anxiety-depression/)

The pursuit of happiness has become the pursuit of possessions. Possessions that break, fade and expire. What happiness is there in this?

Leviticus 25 orders the heart rightly toward possession, property and propriety. Here are six truths from Leviticus 25 that center the soul rightly when it comes to material gain:

  1. Trust God to provide—Leviticus 25:1-7 opens by describing a year of rest for the land. Six years of good work and one year of complete “land rest”. Could you imagine living in a farming economy and being told not to farm? Regardless of what kind of work you are in, God is the one who provides for you. He may not be signing your check, but he has given you the ability, talent and drive to work. God spoke to Moses, “You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:18 God provides, trust him.
  2. Don’t make stuff or pursuing stuff as then number one thing—In Leviticus 25:2, God says, “Observe a Sabbath to the Lord”. God wasn’t telling the people how to relate to the land. The land’s rest was about how to relate to God. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24 You cannot put your desire into two places—only one master can rule your heart—you, stuff, someone other person, or God. God says our life is full when we pursue him with our whole desire. (Matthew 6:33)
  3. Take care of the earth—When God made the universe and everything in it, people were given a special mandate: “Fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28). In Genesis 2, when Adam was given the Garden of Eden, God told him “to work it and watch over it” (Genesis 2:15). Leviticus 25 echoes the care of the earth. Greed should not push our development. Replenishing and sustaining the land are significant for the human condition. There is something deeply fulfilling to caring for the earth. That fulfillment begins with God’s instruction and continues through our action.
  4. Help the less fortunate—For the working class it is difficult to understand how a person falls into poverty. It is hard to grasp homelessness. Yet, the American condition, with its invitation to pursue life, liberty and happiness is not without struggle. The impulse to grab power and subjugate people is part of our fallen nature. Also, racism supports slavery, and followers of Jesus should be active in aggressively fighting racism as a virulent evil. Leviticus 25:35-55 affirms what can be seen throughout the Bible. We can clearly see love and compassion in God’s words about relating to the poor. God told the people who had enough resources to share with the people who did not have enough. God calls His people to be generous to the poor.
  5. Manage what you have well—“Mine” is such a terrible word in the human vernacular. Yet, it is this same word that hinders so much human goodness that God uses to describe the earth. Leviticus 25:23 affirms God’s ownership over the Promised Land. Psalm 89:11 expands that thought, “The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.” Everything belongs to the Lord. If God owns everything and we own nothing, what do we do with the stuff we have? How do we relate to it? The stuff is not ours; it belongs to God. He allows us to use it for a while, and He tells us to use it for His glory.
  6. The best is yet to come—There is no evidence that Israel ever observed the laws commanded in Leviticus 25. In fact, history would lean towards Israel neglecting God’s command regarding the land and the poor. We don’t know a season of Sabbath or Jubilee. Yet, Jesus taught that the best was yet to come. God has a future without suffering in store for His redeemed people. Just as God kept His promise to give His people the land of Canaan, He will keep His promise to give us a land in heaven. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” John 14:2-3 The best is yet to come. The possessions we enjoy here are limited and temporary. Life with Jesus is eternal.