As a person with chronic fatigue, I am always looking for ways to find more energy, more time, etc., etc. I often feel like I pack my days from one end to the other. I recently made out an ideal schedule and realized that’s simultaneously true and not true. I do pack every minute of my day, but it’s because I make sure to prioritize self-care things too. I spend time with Jesus every day. I run and read my journal every day. The past few weeks I’ve been meditating every day. So my day is really full but it’s full of good things.
So when I reread Leviticus 25:20-22 it caught my eye. It’s in the context of giving the land a year-long Sabbath. It says, “You may ask, ‘What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?’ I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in” (NIV)
Can you imagine? You’re a farmer, and your livelihood depends on growing enough food every year to last until the next harvest. And God tells you to take a year off farming. It makes me stressed just thinking about it. But instead of God giving them enough to last for the year they’re taking off, they have enough to last for two more years. The sixth year gives them enough they have a surplus that lasts beyond the seventh year and into the ninth year. How crazy go nuts is that??!
In her book on the Sabbath, Breathe, Priscilla Shirer talks about how God does the same thing when we take a weekly Sabbath. I have to confess that’s not often how I approach the Sabbath. I’m the kind of person who chafes at inactivity because I can think of a laundry list of things that I didn’t get done the week before. It feels counterintuitive to not work for a day, especially if the previous week has been rough.
But that’s the kind of God we have–He’s all about creating rest. Rest isn’t the sort of thing that shows up on its own. We have to create it, to carve out time and maintain boundaries around it.
You can see the same principle in Malachi 3:8-12. If you’ve ever heard a sermon preached on this passage, you’ve probably been taught that if you tithe, God will give you extra. It says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts. “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts” (NIV).
I firmly believe that when we tithe, God blesses us. But there’s a flip side: if we don’t tithe, we don’t get that blessing. Just like if we don’t Sabbath, we don’t get that blessing. Our time, money, etc., etc. goes to other things–broken cars, a hailstorm on your roof, a long line at the grocery store… the list goes on and on. And I’m not trying to say that if you have that stuff, it’s a symptom of God not blessing you. We live in a broken world. Stuff breaks. But we’ve definitely seen that when we tithe, we have enough to tithe and when we don’t tithe, the money isn’t available to tithe. Like Jesus said, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (Lk 19:26, NIV).
I was also challenged to reframe how I view Sabbath. Instead of chafing at the bit, what if I saw it as a sort of planting time? Taking a Sabbath is like planting a seed so we can reap God’s blessing. If I really believed that observing the Sabbath would give me extra resources, I would be eager to celebrate it.
My life is way too busy to leave surplus resources laying around. I can’t afford not to align with God’s blessing for Sabbath. Sabbath creates surplus. We can’t wait until we have surplus to do Sabbath.