Picking Grain on the Sabbath, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The Farming and Gospel

Quote from the Gospel of Matthew

At that time Jesus Christ was passing from the grain fields on the Sabbath. His followers were hungry, and they started to pick heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees looked upon them, they said to Jesus Christ, “Look, your followers are doing what is illegal to do on the Sabbath.” He replied to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but  only for the priests?  Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had understood what this means, ‘I wish for mercy, and not for sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”  (Gospel of Matthew 12:1-8)

The above statement about dispute is one statement from the six disputes statements stated in the Gospels of Matthew. The dispute is between the Jesus Christ and the Pharisees over the Sabbath matter. The others dealt with the healing. Here, Jesus employs the principle of Sabbath to land and farming – and discloses that why the Gospel for farming is Good News.

The Nature of Principle

The day of Sabbath was introduced as a rest day for workers, family and livestock (Exodus 20:8-11). The book of Exodus and Deuteronomy stated that the day of Sabbath anticipated the Sabbath year which meant the year for releasing slaves, resting the land itself and canceling debts (Leviticus 25:1-7). Both predicted the year of Jubilee, a Sabbath of Sabbaths, where in addition to all the Sabbath year provisions, ‘each need to move back to his property and everyone to his family’ (Leviticus 25:8-55). The Jubilee, in essence, positioned rigid limits on the private wealth growth, as land permanently could not be sold.

Jubilee and the Sabbath liberated and protected those without a power and voice – the poor, domestic animals, servants, and the land itself. Jesus Christ established his public ministry by publicizing this Jubilee, the year of the favor of Lord. And in the story of grain field, Jesus directs the same point home, declaring that ‘I wish for mercy and not for sacrifice’. 

As Jesus Christ says the followers were innocent. The grain picking was acceptable, and their action on the Sabbath was a violation of rabbinic law, which is not the biblical law. In complete comparison to the legalistic repression of the Sabbath of Pharisees, Jesus announced the Sabbath as a freedom festival.

Jubilee and Sabbath provide us three major farming principles discussed below, which are proven by many other provisions of Bible, i.e.

  • Caring for the earth.
  • Sharing with the poor.
  • Restraint of wealth and power.

From the above three principles, sharing with poor is most clear in the story. The followers, if not, in reality, are representative of the hungry and poor people, with whom the earth’s good fruits must be shared. It is an attractive that account of Luke proposes that rather than wheat grain was barley, the food of the poor.

But the principle of caring for the earth is there also, though possibly less clear. The ‘Son of earth’, the ‘Son of Man’, the ‘Son of soil’, who announces himself as Lord of this earth, is also the Sabbath Lord, the ‘mercy Lord’ – a mercy that, as the Psalmist states, is over all the works of Jesus (Psalm 145:9).

The Sabbath is a promise principle in two ways. The first is considered as a conditional assurance of favoring now. The prosperity of agriculture depends on obedience not on management at first, including the Sabbath honoring – “them that honor me; I will honor” (Samuel 2:30). This is an important fact for the Christians at present, not merely in farming, but in all of life. The second assurance is of future transformation. Jubilee and Sabbath predict the age of Messianic. Sabbath looks back the rest of formation and moved to its freeing. And an important component of that vision is of a transformed and restored agriculture, a planet where they must sit every person under his fig tree and under his vine” (Micah 4:4), and ‘sheep may safely graze.’

The Statement of Problem  

We can, obviously, discover that age glimpses to come, of ‘Shalom’, in meets with creation, and in agriculture itself – in the sequences of harvest and sowing, in the birth of calves and lambs. As the rhyme states, ‘you are closer to God in a garden’   – possibly since, it symbolizes God and man working jointly – and farming is considered as gardening on a large scale.

But it is no longer a good news at all. If we discover Shalom’s glimpses into our farmed landscape, we also face the distortion in scarred landscapes, in polluted watercourses, in animals behaved as machines. The mark of red color on the head of lamb presents that it was analyzed for FMD. It got the life, but millions of people did not. In fact, the pyres with fire were a powerful sign and symbol of our failure in the second principle of farming, i.e., “to care the earth,” of our conduct of the earth, principally as a resource rather than an accountability, of our wasting instead of caring for the garden.

The land mourns (Joel 1:10, NRSV)  

Farming has influenced the natural environment always, but current industrial farming has facilitated the system to continue with a vengeance. A traditional estimation by analysts at the University of Essex about the health and external environmental costs of agriculture in the United Kingdom placed the bill of approximately £2 billion per year. Whereas, comparable digits for the United States is £13 billion.

Farmers are dismayed (Joel 1:11, NRSV)

The situation of Joel is true in some other ways. Agriculture sector in United Kingdom has passed through  a sequence of crises, a serious fall in income and declining direct contribution towards the national economy (compared with public costs on farming), and a huge turnover of its labor force.

All through the world farmers have turned out the victims of those factors that are out of their control, and most of the farmers have gone under. That there are great differences around the world among those people who have an excess of food and those people who go hungry is renowned. There are also enormous inequities in the food system of the world – a declining contribution of the expenditures related to consumers reaches farms and the situation of oligopoly where the powerful buyers’ variety against thousands of sellers which are sellers of ‘must sell’ type. Consider the following to illustrations;

  • Bananas:  “Bananas are considered as the 4th largest agricultural product in the international trade. A box of 40lb leaves a plantation in Costa Rica at $4.50, and retails in the supermarkets of United Kingdom for $27. Three corporations control the trade of Costa Rica– the same three holds the 70% of international trade in bananas.” The production of Banana is also very harmful to the environment.
  • Supermarkets: “In the United Kingdom, the Commission of Competition currently highlighted a complex situation of monopoly for the reasons of the 1973 Fair Trading Act on two issues – the practices of pricing in the supermarkets and their links with suppliers. Approximately, 27 practices implemented provided the five most important buying supermarkets considerable benefit over other small retailers”

The above three concerns environmental damage, economic injustice and concentration of power – are the crucial matters for international agriculture. Against the three principles of Bible, international farming is measured in the balance and found inadequate. Instead of having the Sabbath, we have a society of Sabbathless nature.

Practice  

How do we can reply to this?  How do we employ the principle of Sabbath to the land and farming now? How do we can understand the God’s Kingdom at least in assessment in this age?

I would like to answer this question, first, with an illustration of transformation of Sabbath in practice – not fairly in farming, but close to this. The complete story is in the book ‘Care of Creation’.

Sabbath Transformation in the Tangier Island  

In Chesapeake Bay’s Tangier Island is a society of about 650 people. From these people 80% are considered Christians. The economy of Island based on blue crab fisheries and oysters. The oyster’s damage reefs because of over-harvesting and disease directed to dependence completely on the crabs. These also turn out over-exploited, made up by pollution from towns and farms along the edge of the area. The incomes of watermen reduced and resulted into increased anxiety. Environment analysts started to force for severe controls directing to bitter clash with the islanders.

Susan Drake Emmerich, who worked with his peer at the Institute in Wisconsin, lived for three years on this island. She found that many people on the island did believe that there was a requirement of scriptural type to supervise the environment and creatures in it, involving their species. This gave a bridge to assist them to know about the environmentalists and vice-versa.

An important event held at combined services of the both churches on the island. Susan argued on biblical environmental supervision or stewardship and loving one’s neighbor. At the service end, watermen men bent in sorrows and turned to God to forgive them for violating the fishery laws and entrusted themselves to a stewardship covenant. Since that time, watermen started to bring back their rubbish instead of dumping it overboard. Some argued expressively in church of their sin conviction after putting off cans of overboard or taking crabs that are undersized. Government scientists, officials and environmentalists were astonished.

In the last year, 12 landowners and farmers from the Chesapeake Bay division, came and after visited the island, acknowledged the influence their actions were putting on the people in their neighborhood to the south and have taken an entry into a same stewardship covenant to be loyal supervisors of their land.

Basis of Stewardship Covenant in Tangier Island

  • Maintaining the catch species’ fruitfulness.
  • Care-taking which means religious stewarding of creation.
  • Exercising or working with contentment.
  • Loving one’s neighbor and trying not to pollute the bay.
  • Allowing for a Sabbath for the creature.
  • Adhering the law of God; and, thus;
  • Adhering the laws of civil rights, particularly fishery laws.

There is still some disagreement concerning to the covenant and the setting is uncommon. But it presents us a partial view of how the things might be. It challenges Christian landowners and farmers to think about their ways and look at care for the earth not as a problem but as an opportunity. It provides us aspiration for land healing under the transforming strength of the Gospel.

There were also some particular key factors in the story of Tangier which highlight an approach or system for us, i.e., repentance, regret, stimulating the principles, taking right decisions, healing of relationships, moving from words to practical action and demonstration. It reveals and focuses on the principle that “God honors those people who honour him.”

The Solutions: What can we do?  

  • Prophesy. First, it is necessary to turn out our thinking to right and positive direction. This was what that Jesus Christ was doing while he was passing from the grain fields. It was the initial step or phase in the Tangier Island transformation. And it is a principal objective of the John Ray Initiative. Similar to Jeremiah, who was known both to “build up and to break down” (Jeremiah 1:10), where the prophet challenges the established norms and standards and bring us back to our roots. He restates and revisits the principles. The prophet also explains the times, by determining the reality against standards, and perceives the ‘long view’ situation present crunches in the perspective of future destiny. He both warn and persuade.
  • Pray and repent. In particular, the prophet always calls the people for prayer and regret. Jesus Christ was completely influencing the Pharisees to transform their minds. An action of regret or repentance was the important moment on Tangier Island. In our current situation, we very much need a revolution among the Christians in an agriculture sector that takes acutely the call of two Chronicles 7:1415 – and in fact in our nation.
  • Care for the casualties: An important part of the Sabbath is the presentation of mercy, the gathering of the broken hearted. In this regard Farm Crisis Network is an association between the Arthur Rank Centre and the Agricultural Christian Fellowship. It was established after five men went to Germany in 1993. At present, it is a network of 229 people who are volunteers and working in 20 teams across the United States, offering moral and practical assistance to those farmers who are in crisis.
  • Influence: Influence where you have the power to influence. In the 19th Century, the Clapham Sect and Wilberforce not merely prayed, they also exercised their political power to change the things with immense effect. The Christians in powerful positions in larger societies have both a responsibility and a privilege – but they need to be organized themselves to pay the price.
  • Decide. Taking decisions make a sense that first appraising the available options against the standards and principles. Comparatively, an easy step for all of us is to purchase fairly traded products (e.g. tea, coffee and bananas), in order to avoid factory-farmed livestock, and where it is possible to purchase local. Christians in agriculture industry have to make an effort with what is Christian farming in meanings of husbandry practices.
  • Demonstrate. The principle of Sabbath in practice has the ability to go beyond words as we observed in the case of Tangier Island. Churches can turn into illustrations by using merely fairly traded goods and deliberately relating to what they are drinking, eating, and buying. We require Christian farming centers and farms that work as expressions.
  • Separate. For some, essential separation has performed as an inspiration of brightness in the darkness. In the United States, Mennonite farming societies are illustrations of great husbandry and land care, and seem to attain very high returns.

Healing the Earth or Land  

This expression has been much exercised in current years, in all kinds of ways. But it is significant to have a Biblical view. As 2 Chronicles 7:14 make apparent, curing the land is based on repentance, not on management. But, there is also a close association between the healing of relationships and healing the land. Significant to the principle of Sabbath is an ordering or restoring of explicit and exact relationships in all ways – between people and God, among neighbors, between the earth and people.

In the Biblical knowledge, the land was contaminated by broken or shattered relationships, particularly broken covenants – by adultery, idolatry and murder. Land might then even now be polluted, even if we supervised, with the help of human ingenuity and effort, to reinstate completely its ecology. From the viewpoint of God, the greatest environmental issue is the human sin that is why the Gospel is great news for the land and farming. The healing of the earth and the land is eventually devoted in the “revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19-22) – which is why that, in meanings, the evangelist put the utmost contribution to the environment future.

Conclusion  

In general, our theme is the Gospel and the future of the environment, and my specific concern has been to present that Gospel and Bible are great news for the land and farming. Our current situation and voice are nothing less than the work and pray that God’s Kingdom approach, and this will be performed on earth as it will be in the heaven. But, we can be certain and sure that the future does not ultimately depend on us – for the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

References

Carruthers, S P. (2002). Farming in crisis and the voice of silence. A response to David Atkinson David Atkinson. New York: Wiley, 59-64.

Edersheim, A. (1993). The life and times of Jesus the Messiah. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Pretty. (2002). Agriculture. Reconnecting  people, land and nature. Washington: Earthscan.

Wright, C J H. (1983). Living as the people of God. The relevance of Old Testament ethics. New York: Inter-Varsity Press.

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