Posted by: John-Paul | September 24, 2012

Economic Implications of Sabbath Rest: Faith in God’s Ways

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)

Times for Sabbath Rest

Yahweh commanded that one day out of seven, His people were to stop working – stop laboring to increase their wealth. Instead they were to rest, worship Him, and seek to know Him and learn His ways of doing things. A hard-driven person, anxious to get ahead by working all the time (the essence of greed), would be forced to stop and trust Yahweh for what is needed.

Yahweh also commanded His people to spend six years sowing and reaping fields of grain, tending trees and vineyards and harvesting their fruits. However, every seventh year, they were to let fields lie fallow and leave trees and vineyards unpruned. They were to allow poor people to reap whatever grew on its own or fell from branches.

Instead, people were to worship Yahweh and seek Him for better ways to produce wealth. Again, people had to trust that Yahweh’s provision would last until the next harvest.

People were varied in talents, in wisdom, in motivation and opportunities to succeed. Some would prosper well and grow rich while others would grow poor and fall into debt. Those who had loaned money so the poor could survive were to forgive those debts after seven years. This took generosity (the nemesis of greed) on the part of the rich. Such generosity grew out of trust in Yahweh’s provision.

Finally, some people did so poorly they fell deeply into debt. The only way they could pay off what they owed was to sell their farms (their capital) and themselves and their family members (their labor) to rich people, who already knew how to profitably use both. This would have the effect of concentrating the control of capital and labor into the hands of the rich and powerful few (the greedy 1%?). These could only grow more rich and powerful.

Yahweh provided a way to break up this unjust concentration of capital. Every year that followed the seventh seventh-year sabbatical – the fiftieth – the rich landowners were to release the farms they controlled back to the original family owners. The rich who employed bondservants were to release them to work their own land for themselves. This gave the next generation of the poor opportunities to apply their own labor to their own capital and to earn their own wealth.

This required the rich to put faith in Yahweh’s provision and generously release what had previously made them wealthy. It required the newly-released bondservants to put faith in Yahweh to guide and enable them in this renewed venture.

 Applying Sabbath Laws in Today’s Economy

To apply Yahweh’s sabbath day laws to today’s economy would be relatively easy. Most Americans enjoy two days off from work either on Saturday and Sunday – the traditional Sabbaths – or during the mid-week. Each individual can look at his circumstances and decide with his family which day is the best to rest, worship, and seek to know God and His ways. The only thing really required is that they “believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Heb 11:6)

Some business owners might shut down operations to give workers opportunities for sabbath days. This already happens in factories that shut down for the weekend. Service-oriented companies, however, need to stay open /7, if not 24/. They can give weekend workers mid-week days off and still not violate their sabbath.

Applying the law of the sabbatical year would be more difficult, especially for businesses. For individual workers, taking a sabbatical would require saving during the other six years or having non-labor sources of income. This would require frugal spending, saving to make purchases rather than using consumer debt, and investing in business, i.e. capitalism.

Businesses would have to either shut down operations every seventh year or they would have to rotate shut-downs through their various divisions. Money-lending businesses would have to also forgive all seven-year-old debts owed to them.

Finally, Jubilee customs would have rich capitalists turning over to poor people the means to also earn wealth. As stated elsewhere, this would bring more economic justice than the government taxing (stealing from) the rich and giving to the poor.  Again, faith in God and His ways would enable the process.

 Sabbath Rest Based on Faith

In the end, faith in the goodness and love of God is the foundation of sabbath rest. The Israelites who came out of bondage in Egypt had been enslaved for at least four hundred years. They were browbeaten, demoralized, easily discouraged. Given the promise of “a land flowing with milk and honey,” they couldn’t handle the brief discomfort of abiding in the Wilderness. They complained and rebelled against Yahweh’s commands. Of the twelve spies that went up into Canaan, ten brought back reports of giant people as well as huge harvests. Only Joshua and Caleb returned and declared that Yahweh would help them if only Israel would obey and go up to take the land. Israel didn’t and was condemned to wander in the Wilderness until all of that generation had died. They never entered the rest that flowed from faith in Yahweh. Yet, God offers daily opportunities to enter His rest – the working out of His promises. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Heb 4:7) The author of Hebrews exhorts all to trust and obey God and so enter His rest.

 My Own Experience

I recently entered into a situation that tests my faith and that of my family. My older son is in his last year of college and requires some thousands of dollars to avoid dropping out for the year. I have a growing appreciation (from God’s Word and economic principles) of reasons to avoid further debt and government involvement and a perceived need for my son to work for his education and otherwise rely on God’s provision. I therefore refused to sign a promissory note for student loans.

I made this choice with some fear. I expected unpleasant objections from other family members and resentment from a son forced to leave off his studies and come home.

I placed my faith in God – in what I believe his Word commands and what I believe He was guiding me to do. My son and I await results from his efforts to seek residence and employment off-campus.

I “believe that [God] exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” However unpleasant it may turn out, I believe He will “work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)


What can you do today that shows your faith in God and His provision? WWJHYD – What would Jesus have you do?

How could you position your finances to enable obeying Yahweh’s laws and reaping His provisions and blessings?

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