We hear the word ‘sustainable’ often enough to understand that it lends itself to the longevity of the planet and the survival of all living organisms, sharing its resources. For the planet to be sustainable, the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability recommends that (we) humanity, who share the resources with the rest of nature, must aim to ‘meet our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’ In other words, it’s considering ‘a holistic approach that considers ecological, social and economic dimensions, recognizing that all must be considered together to find lasting prosperity.’
As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, I contemplated the above reality carefully, in the light of our stewardship responsibility toward God and His creation. Christians find themselves in a world where climate change and concern for the environment are high on the social agenda. As a result, various branches in the Christian world already think about the relationships of humanity to the environment and are acting to either protest or make practical lifestyle changes.
Research shows that to remain sustainable, the universal community must strive to maintain three pillars: Ensure the environmental systems are kept in balance. Allow those who provide resources to the rest of the world to maintain their independence and have access to the resources they require to provide. Ensure that the rest of society who depend on the natural resources, have enough in order to keep their families and communities healthy and secure.
God’s word offers similar fundamental sustainability principles. In fact, Leviticus 25 identifies these similar objectives, introduced by God to his Old Testament people, to sustain their land, their nation and their future generations. The first 18 verses of the Chapter spell out the actions the people needed to take, in order to care for the current and future generations, both human and non-human. The actions are described in one action, which translate into an ‘inaction’. God described this inaction with three words: Rest, Sabbath, and Jubilee. In other words, to usher in a framework of sustainability, God commanded them to rest for a whole year.
Not only did He require the people to rest, but their rest led to rest and rejuvenation of the land, the animals, and the environment, including rest for the less fortunate, servants and strangers. The chapter provides the following encouragement and hope for everyone He created. First, God promised that, through not ploughing, sowing, and pruning, the land would grow independently, and that it would provide a harvest at the end of that year. Second, this year-end harvest would be enough for every creature who depended on these natural resources. Third, and best, was that the harvest from this Sabbath year would provide enough food for everyone for the next three years.
From one year’s rest, the land they depended on would be sustained and kept in balance. The farmer who fed the nation would have enough to survive; and those who depended on the farmer —the servant, the animals and the stranger— would have enough in abundance for years to come.
Today, the Sabbath-rest principle of Leviticus 25 can be translated into actions I can take to give the land and environment a restful break. Perhaps through my recycling methods, minimising my carbon footprint and considering how I insulate my home, would definitely give my world that deserved break. For example, research shows that if every office worker in the United Kingdom used one less staple a day, by using a reusable paper clip, 120 tonnes of steel would be saved in one year.
God has shown us, through one fundamental principle in Leviticus 25, that we who are anticipating His coming, can help to slow down the rate of environmental decay and leave something for the next generation to enjoy. Besides, it is our greatest opportunity to work alongside Him to care for the best resource he has provided for us.