In my book Journey from Anxiety to Freedom, I attempt to explore Sabbath Economics and its incorporation into your life. I readily acknowledge that we are all, in a sense, overwhelmed. It seems like life is coming at us faster and faster every day. We do not need one more thing to do. The Sabbath Economics disciplines, though, are not designed to give us one more thing to do, but to change our heart. The disciplines cause us to repent, to go in a different direction. On one hand, this is easy, but on the other it could not be more difficult. Sabbath Economics, as a part of stewardship, “… is not one more thing we have to do, but a way of seeing everything we already do in a very different light.” Or as Brennan Manning tells of his friend Mary,
She worked out of her home in New Orleans and in her living room hung a large banner that read, “Today I will not should on myself.” Whenever one of Mary’s friends said something to her like “Mary, you should get back into teaching” she would respond, “Don’t you should on me. Don’t you dare should on me.”
Please do not think that I am saying you “should” do anything. If God is just an activity, if you do not have love for the endeavor, you should really question your motives. An inward look is critical to this process. John Calvin said, “ Knowing thyself is key to knowing God.” Our Stewardship Self-Assessment is a tool to use in finding a place to start. But you should not stop there. The power of Sabbath Economics does not lie in the individual disciplines, but looking at them as a whole. As you start to see how different activities relate to one another you start to see the heart of God. Working on one discipline alone seems to generate more of a sense of pride than a love for God.
Maybe an analogy will help. John Piper, in promoting his book A Peculiar Glory, tells the story of having a painting lying across your lap covered by a cloth. If you just cut a small hole in the cloth, you will only see a small portion of the painting and will not appreciate its beauty. Only when you remove the cloth and look at the whole painting do you see the artistry. He states in the book, concentrating on individual verses of the Bible distracted him from seeing God. In a somewhat similar manner, concentrating on one discipline as opposed to holistically viewing several can hamper your view of reality.
I use Dallas Willard’s VIM model to further explore Sabbath Economics. Willard teaches VIM as follows:
Vision-where you are trying to go;
Intention-what you believe that gives you the drive to pursue the vision;
Means-the actual tasks that you will use, motivated by the intention, to reach (but also find) the vision.
Along with the holistic view, the awareness of the particular love that God has laid on your heart is important, as this drives Intention. Thomas Cranmer, a leader of the English Reformation said, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn’t direct the will. The mind is captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.” True change only occurs when one is “repossessed” or as Thomas Chalmers said, “seized by the power of a new affection.”
But you cannot just sit around waiting for love to prompt you. Dallas Willard also teaches the model of “surrender, abandonment, contentment”. The hard part is “surrender”. Our attachment to our self-generated idols is so strong that turning from them can feel like death. Paul Tillich said, “courage is an element of faith.” A commitment to the process is critical. Again Willard – “The easy yoke of Jesus is doing his work as opposed to the crushing burden of your own.”
As outlined in the book, community is also critical. Our attachments, addictions, idols are so strong it is extremely difficult for us to see them in ourselves. “Idolatrous faith is still faith.” We have to continually examine our motives to make sure addictions have not crept in. Mark Galli, in his article “Point of Crisis, Point of Grace”, speaks to our motives for change that can be selfish, as opposed to pleasing God.
The rest of the book details the seven “household covenants” that Ched Myers has developed as part of his Sabbath Economics work. There may or may not be anything magical about the individual covenants; there may or may not be anything magical about the number seven. But, again, see what God has laid on your heart. See how the other covenants interrelate wherever you decide to start. For instance, if you have a heart for Giving, see how that relates to:
- actually spending time with the poor (Solidarity),
- or if the way you have invested your money works against your giving efforts (Surplus Capital)
- or if (Negative Capital) or wasteful spending (Consumption) is preventing you from giving more.
I challenge you to look through the sections on the seven covenants. Do the self-assessment. And start, even if it is a small step. Life is easier if you are moving.
The first step, simply this: “Go on your way.” Try it out by trying it out. Get started by getting started. Why waste any more days, stuck or afraid or ashamed? Don’t stay bolted to the floor of the familiar. Every day is resurrection; every moment, new. Don’t sit year after year in the same seats with the same people saying and doing the same things, trying to convince each other you are on the way. Jesus says, just go. Get on your way.
See our website for more information on how we include Sabbath Economics in our Stewardship Coaching program and information on the book Journey from Anxiety to Freedom.