We live in a world of bigger, better, faster, and, always, more.
Many of us have bought into the illusion of continuous growth. Every month, financial markets watch closely for key numbers about employment and GDP (gross domestic product) growth. Technology companies such as Apple and Samsung invest billions of dollars to crank out innovative technology that will drive more sales—and growth. The official September reveal event demonstrating a new Apple iPhone draws thousands of journalists and ten thousands of online viewers watching every year. Innovation creates growth—and growth drives innovation.
As Adventists we may not look as closely at new technology, but we are equally tempted to get sucked into the alluring drumbeat of constant growth. We report frequently on new membership numbers or the development of financial contributions by our members. We love to see the good news of salvation reach thousands or even millions—and rightfully so. Constant growth is God’s plan—or is it?
Rediscovering God’s Rhythm
When God finished creating this world, He invited His creation (including Adam and Eve) to rest. The seventh-day Sabbath was the pinnacle of God’s creative activities. Sure, it must have been awesome to watch Him speak stars and moon and the sun into their orbits and to observe, mouths wide open, how animals began to take shape and roam the garden. But it was the Sabbath that brought all of it together. A busy Creator stopped, rested, blessed—and fellowshipped (Gen. 2:2, 3). Rest taught Adam and Eve more than all Creation activity taken together. “God saw that a Sabbath was essential for man, even in Paradise,” writes Ellen White. “He needed to lay aside his own interests and pursuits for one day of the seven, that he might more fully contemplate the works of God and meditate upon His power and goodness.”1
“Even in Paradise” is an astonishing assertion. God’s 6 + 1 rhythm was not meant primarily for worn-out, sin-sick, tired post-Fall inhabitants of earth, but was designed for a perfect creation, reflecting a perfect Creator.
God made sure that His rhythm permeated all spheres of life of His people—including food production. Following Israel’s liberation from Egypt, Israel received laws that reflected God’s unique life rhythm. Leviticus 25:2 introduces the important notion of Sabbath rest for the land: “When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord.”2 The land was part of God’s creation and also required Sabbath rest. Israel was told that every seventh year the land was to rest—no sowing, no pruning, no fertilizing, no removing of rocks and weeds (see also Ex. 23:10-12). The land would produce following its own rhythm and God would provide enough “for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you” (Lev. 25:6). God’s people were to rely completely on their Creator and Redeemer for daily sustenance, and God’s 6 + 1 rhythm became a weekly and a yearly reminder of divine grace.
The laws governing debt slavery were another way of grasping the crucial 6 + 1 rhythm of life. Both in Israel and in the ancient Near East a person could sell himself or a family member into the service of a creditor to pay off debt. Six years the work of the slave would pay off any debt, but in the seventh year every Hebrew slave had to be released (Ex. 21:2; Deut. 15:12). Deuteronomy goes even further and explains the true 6 + 1 ethos: “And when you send him [the slave] away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; you shall supply him liberally from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your winepress. From what the Lord your God has blessed you with, you shall give to him” (Deut. 15:13, 14). Biblical stewardship concerning time, people, land, and even animals always included the perspective of a covenant community before God and responsibility for those who needed to see, in a tangible way, God’s gracious hand in their lives. Bigger, better, faster, and more is not God’s way.
Learning the 6 + 1 Rhythm
When Israel camped at the foot of Mount Sinai and prepared for their encounter with the Lord, they were told that God’s plan for them included a high and lofty goal: “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6). The very fabric of Israel’s society was to be governed by its relation to the Lord (“kingdom of priests”) and their constant (priestly) access to His presence. Every weekly Sabbath, every seventh year, every Jubilee (following 7 x 7 years) was to remind them of this privilege and lifestyle. Care for the land, for their servants, for their animals, and even for the stranger living next to them was to be part of God’s 6 + 1 rhythm.
Habits are powerful patterns of behavior. A “good habit” (such as regular exercise or personal morning devotions) will go a long way in helping us live wholesome and productive lives. A “bad habit” (such as wasting time in front of a TV screen or computer or abusing our bodies by eating unhealthy food or sleeping too little) similarly will often result in self-destructive behavior. Habits are powerful frameworks.
God’s comprehensive 6 + 1 rhythm (including the Sabbath but touching many more aspects of our lives) offers a chance for God to reprogram our sin-sick hearts to focus beyond ourselves and our selfish natures. It’s truly a habit-forming rhythm that counters the bigger, better, faster, and more mantra we hear all around us.
We stop, we rest, we fellowship—and then we become a blessing to the world around us.
1 Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890), p. 48.