Today’s Scriptures: From the Book of Common Prayer
Psalm 93, 96, 34
How do Old Testament laws guide our New Covenant Faith?
Challenging rules has been part of human nature since God created us with free will. If a rule does not make obvious sense, we challenge it immediately: perhaps it was poorly worded. As a Christian, not bound by the law, I instantly challenge much of the Levitical law. Why would anyone make such trivial laws?
The idea of sabbath and jubilee years presented in Leviticus 25 is so foreign to us today that it is hard to imagine a culture that did such things in the name of religion. In a time when many of the people were agrarian, the idea of not being a steward of the land for an entire year seems anathema to the basic purpose of being a farmer. In a time when famine and death were one dry season away, failing to plant crops for a year seems a sure death sentence. Why would a loving god command such a thing of his people? Nevertheless, God did just that – and that it happen on a regular basis.
I think we can find the answers to such questions in the epistle and Gospel passages.
The author of James demands absolute faith in a God who will provide everything we NEED to do his works. The passage is so often misinterpreted by people who take the admonition against “doubt” to apply to every part of our spiritual walk.
Without doubt, we would never reach the point of accepting salvation through Christ.
Without doubt, we would never grow to the point that we function as mature Christians, doing God’s will.
Without doubt, faith becomes an empty expression of blind belief.
The author remains adamant. God will provide IF we believe without questioning.
In the Gospel, a bystander asks Jesus to direct his brother to share the inheritance. Jesus responded by doing what Jesus did: he told a story. The story actually gives us several layers to consider, but in it, one thing Jesus does is provide a distinction between wealth and greed that I find enlightening. I had not considered the difference between wealth and greed as being having abundance versus having abundance, wanting more, and keeping it to oneself.
Jesus does not condemn the wealthy.
He condemns the greedy.
This is the point at which the Old Testament and New Testament passages converge. God provides what we need and when we become too self-reliant, we move away from God. Having a Sabbath Year. Asking without doubt. Accepting sufficiency. All are steps of faith we make in trusting our God. By demanding the Sabbath year, God showed, through the natural productivity of the land, that he continued to provide for his people. In the jubilee year, when all property reverted to the owners by tribe, God showed that all things come from him and no sale (or as we would call it now, a lease) would change that. The commands also helped preserve a social order – the wealthy only controlled for a time and the poor were only slaves for a time. And at the appointed time, everything reverted to its appointed order: the land to its owners and people to their families (tribes). The Old Testament law provided for economic and social equity. The New Testament faith leads to the same thing.
Let us complete our faith by completely trusting that everything we need for our faith will be provided.