Measuring 'Enough'

June 14th, 2011
Image © Ingvald Kaldhussater |

How have you learned to measure “enough”? Some learn the dimensions of enough after a frantic race for more and more ends with an empty exhaustion. Some learn through the delight of a baby’s first smile. Some learn by visiting a culture steeped in love rather than materialism. Some learn by a natural bent toward simplicity. Some even learn by studying Scripture. The early Christian community learned by doing; they met needs within the community by the simple practice of selling property or goods and allowing the apostles to distribute the resources.

In a sense, the whole community engaged in an experiment deeply rooted in the faith of Israel. Leviticus and Deuteronomy include numerous directions for maintaining the economic life of the community. For example, Deuteronomy 15 is a description of the proper conduct of a sabbatical year: debts are forgiven and brothers and sisters who had been sold into slavery are released. Every seventh (sabbatical) year was a time for joy to gain its rightful place in the homes, villages, and hearts of all God’s people. This sabbatical renewal of community, economy, and joy, however, was a prelude to a more amazing year to come. After seven sabbatical seasons, the trumpet was to sound over the whole nation to initiate the year of Jubilee. In this year, every Israelite individual was restored to a full status as heir of the covenant. According to Leviticus 25, not only were debts forgiven, but also any inherited land that was sold was returned to the original owner. The whole nation released, redeemed, and renewed itself by honest acts of liberation, forgiveness, and return.

The Jubilee Year is a shining moment within the law; however, it was a law that was most likely never practiced. There is no account of a grand Jubilee season in the life of the nation Israel; rather, like so many passages that imply a radical approach to material possessions and property, this year was treated as a poetic metaphor or a prophetic promise. No one really believed the Year of Jubilee was possible—apart from a mighty deed of God. However, by the gift of the Holy Spirit the earliest Christians began to live Jubilee-styled lives. They softened their hearts, they loosened their grasp, and they gave whenever a need emerged. By the continuing work of the Spirit, each act of generosity added to the depth of understanding about God’s salvation. There was nothing abstract or ethereal about the power of God in their common life; it was as simple as need observed, money offered, distribution made, and joy increased.

Adapted from The New International Lesson Annual Copyright © 2005 by Abingdon Press

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