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Sabbath: The Theological Roots of Sustainable Development


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It is the thesis of this paper that, in general, the points of emphasis by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development are in close, but not perfect, alignment with the concept of Sabbath-shalom in Scripture. Some differences also exist. Sabbath begins at Creation and is the substance and symbol of God’s care for this earth. In Sabbath we rest in God’s sustaining power. Sabbath also is integral to covenant relationships. This means that Sabbath is not merely about care for the environment but also about care for all relationships envisioned by the concept of shalom. Both the creation roots and covenant roots link Sabbath to redemption and recreation. Together, these roots give us the direction that humans will journey when caring for each other and for this earth. The fatal flaw in the UN sustainable development movement is presented.
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JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015 35
Sabbath: The Theological Roots
of Sustainable Development
michael e. cafferKy
Southern Adventist University
ABstrAct: It is the thesis of this paper that, in general, the points of emphasis by the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development are in close, but not perfect, alignment with the concept of Sabbath-shalom in Scripture. Some differ-
ences also exist. Sabbath begins at Creation and is the substance and symbol of God’s care for this earth. In Sabbath
we rest in God’s sustaining power. Sabbath also is integral to covenant relationships. This means that Sabbath is not
merely about care for the environment but also about care for all relationships envisioned by the concept of shalom.
Both the creation roots and covenant roots link Sabbath to redemption and recreation. Together, these roots give us the
direction that humans will journey when caring for each other and for this earth. The fatal flaw in the UN sustainable
development movement is presented.
Key words: Business, community, covenant, creation, dominion, environment, imitating God, Jesus Christ, jubi-
lee, justice, lordship, moral relativism, redemption, Sabbath, sabbatical, shalom, sign, sustainable development, Ten
Commandments, UN Commission on Sustainable Development, wholeness, work, worship
Over the decades, in trade journals and books,
Protestants (Buchanan, 2006; Colwell, 2008; Taylor,
2010; Brueggemann, 2014) and Roman Catholics (John
Paul II, 1998) have called for a renewed interest in the
Sabbath. The collection of essays on Sabbath from dif-
ferent theological perspectives also illustrates the recent
interest in the topic among more than one Christian
denomination (O’Flaherty et al., 2010).
At the same time, Christians and non-Christians have
called for a stronger emphasis on sustainable development
(e.g., Epstein & Hanson, 2006). During the last 30 years,
hundreds of journal articles and books have been published
touching in one way or another on this topic. For more
than twenty years the journal Sustainable Development has
offered a forum for discussing the issues. For more than
thirty years, leaders from many nations and organizations
have been collaborating in this global conversation.
Scholars, interested in the spiritual foundations of
business or who discuss business ethics, have introduced
a connection between Sabbath and business (Chewning,
Eby, & Roels, 1990; Stackhouse, 1995; Rempel, 2003;
Wong & Rae, 2011). These scholars do not explore spe-
cific ways in which Sabbath touches business.
Christian social justice activists have tied Sabbath to
an emphasis on sustainable development including the fair
distribution of resources. Called “Sabbath Economics,”
the movement encourages socially responsible investing,
giving to the poor, community investing of wealth so
that more than just a few enjoy its benefits, and investing
in organizations that are working directly with the poor
(Gardner, 2005; Shimron, 2006; Colwell, 2008).
Once the deeper significance of Sabbath is under-
stood, the Christian will find interest in this since
Sabbath-keeping, in all of its dimensions, is a response to
a gracious God who created and redeemed us. A believer
who wishes to fully emulate the Creator-Redeemer
(Ephesians 5:1) will want to develop a more complete
understanding of what Sabbath means for every aspect of
life, including business.
The purpose of this paper is to explore the theo-
logical foundations of Sabbath and compare these to
contemporary points of emphasis on sustainable devel-
opment as recently voiced by the UN Commission on
Sustainable Development.
To advance its purpose, the paper will consider two
streams of thought in turn, Sabbath and sustainable devel-
opment. Regarding Sabbath, the dual roots of creation
and covenant will demonstrate the close relationship
between Sabbath and the biblical concept of shalom.
Following this, the linkages between Sabbath and sustain-
able development will be illustrated in the recent work of
the UN Commission on Sustainable Development and its
predecessor commission beginning in 1984. A weakness
of the UN Commission’s work will be highlighted.
dEFiNitioNs oF tErMs
The term Sabbath comes from the Bible. It refers to
multiple layers of a faith community’s relationship with
God. At the observable, outward layer, Sabbath refers to
consecrated time, the seventh day of the week, to be kept
holy. This day when no work is done is set apart for wor-
ship to God. Sabbath also refers to the day of worship that
also provides rest, which renews for future service. This
rest applies as much to the earth as it does for humans.
At a much deeper level, Sabbath refers to our entire
relationship with God where persons in community rest
from human efforts to achieve reconciliation with God.
Sabbath is commitment to the set of principles designed
to foster flourishing life. Thus, Sabbath is a miniature
representation of all the principles of a flourishing rela-
tionship with God, namely, his Law.
Imbedded in the term sustainable development are
two ideas. Sustainable refers to caring for the earth in
such a way that both present and future generations can
benefit from earth’s bounty while justice is preserved.
Development refers to the wise use of resources for the
purpose of fostering flourishing life for all, including the
most vulnerable. This includes economic development
and technological development.
sABBAtH roots: crEAtioN ANd covENANt
The succinct description of Sabbath’s purpose first
appeared in the Torah and has been preserved for millen-
nia as a central part of the Judeo-Christian subcultures.
In the words of the covenant, Sabbath is explicitly linked
with creation:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six
days you shall labor and do all your work, but the
seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God;
in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or
your daughter, your male or your female servant or
your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and
the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested
on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the
Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
Sabbath in Creation
Human history begins with gifts of God’s love not an
arbitrary command of God (Miller, 2009, p. 123). The
earth itself is one gift, and the Sabbath is another, a gift
designed to foster a deepening relationship between God
and humankind, a gift which represents the reality of a joy-
ful life of peace (shalom) envisioned for all God’s creatures.
The Creation narrative in the Bible describes God
as committed to all creation. He continually sustains it
by his power (Psalm 104:30). Therefore creation must
have inherent value. Scripture calls humans to worship
the Creator (Psalm 102:25-27; 104; Colossians 1:17;
Hebrews 1:3, 10-12). Defacing, abusing, or destroying
creation is an attack on God. The land, and by logical
extension our whole environment, is not just a natural
resource for human exploitation. It is holy and must
be cared for as loyal stewards would care for their own
(Leviticus x25:1-7). The environment in which God
placed humans is social.
Wholeness, not dualism. The ancient Hebrew con-
cept of life is quite different from the Greek ideas that
would emerge later and which would come to dominate
Christian thinking after the New Testament was written.
In the creation and covenant, we see no artificial separa-
tion of body from soul. Wholeness in the biblical way
of thinking includes not only holistic persons but also
persons in community: Wholeness is not complete unless
persons are in community. In Sabbath, keeping the soul
is not more important than preserving the body (Berry,
2000). It is the whole person in community who responds
to God through worship, rest and, work. Sabbath worship
is not merely about bringing the soul into closer relation-
ship with God. Rather, worship on the Sabbath is to be
correlated with worship during the workweek so that the
whole person and whole community journey together
toward shalom.
This provides a deeper perspective on redemption
and faith, also. Redemption is not only for the spirit or
soul of a person. Redemption involves restoration of the
whole person, the community, and the whole earth. In
terms of redemption, a Sabbath view of redemption is
consistent with the New Testament passages (Romans
8:21; 2 Peter 3:13). Likewise, faith is not just an ethereal,
spiritual experience of the soul. Biblical faith means faith-
fulness to God by the whole person in all dimensions of
community life.
Coworkers with God. It is in Sabbath worship that
the relationship between God’s work and our work
comes into focus. In both Testaments of the Bible,
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JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015
we find expressions that it is God who sustains life on
earth (Psalm 36:9; 54:4; 104:27-28; 145:15-16; Luke
12:6-7, 24; Matthew 6:26-32; 7:9; Acts 17:28; Romans
8:32; Colossians 1:17; 1 John 4:9). Humans, made in
his image, are to be coworkers with God, as responsible
servants, to sustain flourishing life. The passage about
the first hallowed seventh day lies between the commis-
sion to subdue and have dominion over (develop) the
earth (Genesis 1:26-28) and the commission to serve the
earth by caring for (sustaining) it (Genesis 2:15). Thus,
awareness of our role in sustaining the earth is integral
to Sabbath worship.
Lordship of Christ. Sabbath is a symbol that God is
Lord of our life (Andreasen, 1978). Sabbath is a return
to an Eden-like existence where work was free from its
toil. The Creation Sabbath anticipates the covenant and
God’s grace. If this is true, it also must anticipate the
Incarnation where God comes to earth to live among us
(Philippians 2:1-11); the Cross, whereby all things are
reconciled to God in Christ (Colossians 1:19-20); and
the Resurrection, in which by faith we can participate in
newness of life (Romans 5:10).
Purpose of creation, shalom. Whatever conclusions
are drawn about Sabbath’s broader principles, the core
purpose of Sabbath, as a day of rest and worship, cannot
be forgotten. In this, the implicit purpose of Sabbath is
the overall well-being (shalom) of the community in all
dimensions: covenant relationship with God, social har-
mony, international peace, physical health, and economic
prosperity. But Sabbath is also a direct experience of
shalom in the community weekly and every seven years.
While the New Testament writers do not explicitly
make the connection between Jesus the Creator, Sabbath,
and care of the earth, implicitly they accept the Old
Testament thinking. In their view, Jesus is the fulfillment
of all the prophetic hopes and dreams for renewed well-
being. Jesus is the Creator of all things (John 1:1-3). In
him is abundant life (John 10:10). He is the Lord of the
Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). In him, we still live and move
and have our being (Acts 17:28). The Redeemer-Messiah
embraces not merely the sinful souls of human beings
but rather the entire cosmos. He holds all things together
by his sustaining power (Colossians 1:15-20). He recre-
ates the earth at the consummation of the great plan of
redemption (Revelation 21:1-22:5).
Jesus demonstrated the fulfillment of the prophetic
dimension of shalom by healing on Sabbath (Matthew
12:1-8; Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11; 13:10-17;
14:1-6; John 5:10-18). One Sabbath day after healing a
person, Jesus claimed that his ministry is a fulfillment of
a shalom prophecy from Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the
Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the
gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to
the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free
those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable
year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18).
Linkage between work and worship. Sabbath is rest
from work even as it anticipates work after worship and
worship in work. Unlike the reason for human need of
rest from work, Divine rest was a “rest of his satisfac-
tion and his stamp of approval” of what he created for
humankind (Hafeman, 2001, p. 45). Another dimension
of Divine rest is that the creative work was not complete
until God had rested on the seventh day (Dederen, 1982).
This makes Sabbath a part of Creation and not merely an
afterthought to Divine creative activity. It suggests that
Sabbath, though not considered work per se, was part of
Divine action.
The Sabbath as a worship experience is inseparable
from and interdependent with work. Work is intimately
related to our worship (service) to the Creator who gave
the gift of work. One might even say that Sabbath would
lose some of its meaning if on the other six days no work
was done, if work was done in a way that disrupted
human well-being, or if work did not honor the Sabbath-
Giver. The original Sabbath concept embraced humans
working in a material world. Yet, the aim of such work
was not accumulation of material possessions but rather to
enter into rest with God while serving the needs of others
including that of the earth.
The Hebrew narratives tell that humans disrupted
the hidden potential of Sabbath by attempting to live
autonomously from the Creator. This marred the human
experience with work, with the earth, and with Sabbath.
Work became burdensome toil. Workers needed rest from
the weariness of toil. More than this, humans needed a
constant reminder that confidence in human work should
never replace trust in God. It was not the breaking of the
Sabbath as a day of worship that resulted in burdensome
toil but rather the breaking of the fundamental covenant
relationship with God which placed the first couple at
odds with God and with their environment. Accordingly,
the promises of recovered peace begin with God’s promise
of restoration (Genesis 3:15-18). This promise became the
seed for hope that shalom once experienced by humans in
Eden will one day be restored (Amos 9:13). We rest in
the hope that one day the peace of Eden will be restored
at the consummation of God’s great plan of redemption.
Sabbath in Covenant.
Attention now must be focused on the relationship
between Sabbath and the covenant relationship that God
established with humankind. This paper argues that a pil-
lar of the Scripture message regarding God and his inten-
tions toward us is embodied in the Sabbath, intentions
envisioned implicitly in covenant promises and eventually
made explicit in the Ten Commandments.
The Sabbath Command in Exodus frames it in
terms of creation while the same commandment restated
in Deuteronomy 5 reminds us of the covenant. Here,
Sabbath becomes a parable of redemption in which God’s
creative deliverance results in a rest of peace (Dyrness,
1977, p. 172). As such, Sabbath is a “type” of redemption
from oppression of sin.
Covenant identity of Israel. Though it is not the first
command given by God to the people when he gave the
Ten Commandments, the Sabbath command became the
cornerstone and capstone of Israel’s day-to-day life. It is
the first command given to Israel after leaving Egypt and
on the occasion of the giving of manna (Exodus 16:22-
30). When stated in Exodus 20:8-11, it becomes a sign
that God first “created” Israel by liberating them from
slavery. He then asked them to commit to a relationship
designed to foster well-being. Thus, Sabbath provides an
important anchor point for Israel’s covenant-based iden-
tity. On this point Dumbrell (1984) writes: “Israel is to
reflect upon the question of ultimate purposes for herself
as a nation, and for the world over which she is set. For
in pointing back to creation, the Sabbath points also to
what is yet to be, to the final destiny to which all creation
is moving” (p. 35). This parallel between the Creation
account and the covenantal creation of Israel as a nation
has been observed by more than one scholar (Lowrey,
2000; Hafemann, 2001).
Sign of the Covenant. Sabbath is a sign of the cov-
enant and is even spoken of as a covenant itself: “You shall
surely observe My Sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me
and you throughout your generations, that you may know
that I am the LORD who sanctifies you…. Celebrate the
Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual cov-
enant...” (Exodus 31:13-17 See also Ezekiel 20:12).
Sabbath would cease to be a sign of the covenant if
the principles of covenant were accepted only one day of
the week for worship but ignored or rejected the other
days of the week during work. Accordingly, Sabbath is
a sign of loyalty to God. At the giving of manna, God
tested their loyalty on Sabbath (Exodus 16). The Sabbath
became “the chief symbol of testing” (Geller, 2005, p.
11). Geller concludes that “…the Sabbath stands for
loyalty to covenant and its violation for apostasy” (p.
11). Thus, the whole covenant relationship with God is
envisioned by Sabbath, not just a day of worship and rest.
Purpose of covenant, shalom. The purpose of the Ten
Commandments is to foster flourishing life of shalom
(Psalm 119:165; Cafferky, 2014). Since it is embedded in
both the Creation narrative and the Ten Commandments
(the covenant), the command to keep the Sabbath is a
test of loyalty to the relationship with God. Sabbath tests
human willingness to lay aside wealth-producing behav-
iors. In our response to God’s grace, by limiting the eco-
nomic dimension of shalom, God makes room to enjoy
the other dimensions of shalom.
The Ten Commandments describe the terms on
which God intended to give blessings promised in
the covenant relationship. The Law, and especially the
Sabbath command in the Law, reveals God’s secret to
flourishing life (Goldingay, 2006, pp. 187-190; Miller,
2009, pp. 122-123; Rayburn, 1984, p. 75). But it is
more than instrumental; it is also inherently valuable. In
particular, the Sabbath command lays at the center of the
ten obedience to its precepts as much a response to grace
as it is to duty born of loyalty. Accordingly, the Sabbath
is intended to be not a burden but a privilege, something
that other nations did not have and might well be jealous
of once they learned of it (Deuteronomy 4:6-8). When it
is a burden, this is an indication that the deeper relation-
ship with God has been lost (Isaiah 58).
The day of rest points to the senselessness of uninter-
rupted work that “tends to rob man of being creatively
involved with the world, until he is taken hostage by con-
siderations of yield and profit” (Andreasen, 1978, p. 41;
See also Eichrodt, 1957). Accordingly, Sabbath is:
vival (Exodus 34:21)
•A day that has the potential to protect us from
totalitarianism (Andreasen, 1985, p. 99)
•Aday ofrestfromconstantdrivefueledbyambi-
tion and greed
•A day of liberation from secular pressures and
duties (Guy, 1985, p. 32)
(Dederen, 1982, p. 301)
can be content in God’s providing care
Sabbatical, Jubilee, and Shalom. Taking a day off
from work each week limits wealth acquisition. This
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JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015
means giving up 14.29% of productive time. As a set
of broader principles, it means keeping in focus the
larger purpose of work and, when necessary, placing limits
around work so that a flourishing life can be enjoyed in
the larger community both now and in the future. But
Sabbath is not just giving up something; it means gaining
something inherently valuable.
Sabbath under the covenant thinking is extended to
managing the land. The land was to be given a rest every
seven years (sabbatical). This rest for the land was not
merely for the utilitarian value of improving the produc-
tivity of fields. It also reflected the right of the land to
be sustained. Sabbatical taught that God is the ultimate
owner of land and other wealth-building assets. These
resources cannot endlessly be exploited. Humans are
expected to have dominion over the land, but also to serve
it and not hold the land in bondage.
Every sabbatical year slaves were to be freed and debt
was to be released. The Sabbath would be a reminder of
the faith community’s own experience in slavery (Exodus
21:2; Andreasen, 1978). Shalom could never be experi-
enced across the community unless it reached into every
level of society including those in debt. Additionally, sha-
lom could not be experienced if members of the commu-
nity continually preyed upon the generosity of others to
bail them out. Borrowing was discouraged (Deuteronomy
29:12-13; Proverbs 17:18; 22:7, 26-27); however, it was
recognized that there are occasions when borrowing is
necessary (Exodus 22:25). Only by fulfilling responsibil-
ity to repay debts (2 Kings 4:1-8; Psalm 37:21) as well as
generosity and release from debts (Deuteronomy 15:1,
7-11; Proverbs 19:17) could shalom be ensured.
The concepts of sabbatical (Exodus 23:10-11;
Leviticus 25:4-5; 26:34-35; 2 Chronicles 36:21) and the
year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10-54; 27:17-24) illustrate
that Sabbath is more than mere cessation of work one day
in seven for worship. Sabbath is an expression of physical
justice toward the land as well as social justice toward the
poor. These same ideas are carried into discussions about
the experience of shalom (Psalm 72:2-6; Jeremiah 5:23-
25) showing how Sabbath is prophetic of the wonderful
flourishing life when justice of God is spread throughout
the earth. Working together with God, humans have a
responsibility to make right the injustices which have
oppressed the whole created order of all living things.
Social justice. In the days of the ancient prophet
Amos, the deeper meaning of the Sabbath had been
replaced by a shallow form. During the Sabbath hours,
traders became impatient for the Sabbath to pass so that
commercial activity could resume which involved taking
advantage of customers. Though the hours of Sabbath
might be set aside and no commercial work performed,
Sabbath is not a valid sign of covenant for the person who
is itching for the hours to pass so that he can go back to
the market to perpetrate injustice (Amos 8:4-7).
Imitating God. Covenant principles are enunciated
in both the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18; Amos 5:14)
and the New Testament (Matthew 7:12; Mark 12:31-33;
Romans 13:8-9; Galatians 5:14). God loves creation. He
continually sustains it by his power. Therefore creation
must have inherent divine value. We are called to wor-
ship the Creator (Psalm 102:25-27; 104; Colossians 1:17;
Hebrews 1:3, 10-12; Revelation 14:7). And, humans are
called to imitate God in how we relate to each other and
to the earth. Sabbath observance emphasizes the integra-
tion of humans with the total environment. In resting on
that day, humans in community reinforce the relationship
with the Creator and his creation. In serving during the
week, we also honor creation.
Community. The Sabbath presents the biblical idea
of a community that exists around commitment to prin-
ciples of flourishing life. These are the spiritual and civil
principles (laws) of social responsibilities. In Judaism, cov-
enantal communal needs take precedence over but are not
destructive of individual needs. Pava (1998) states that
“God’s religious and ethical commandments are directed
first to the community and only after to individual mem-
bers of the community” (p. 606). Sabbath is, by nature,
communitarian. It is designed for a whole community to
experience together.
Tensions. Several interrelated tensions are embedded
in Sabbath that must be managed by the community.
Indeed, these tensions require goal-directed community
effort. These tensions are summarized as follows:
• Workvs.rest
• Short-termvs.long-term
• Using and enjoying the earth vs. preserving and
caring for the earth
• Buildingproductivitythatresults in prosperityvs.
sharing prosperity
• Encourage responsibility for repaying debts vs.
release from responsibility to repay debts
• Enhancinglifeforthepresentgenerationvs.foster-
ing flourishing life for future generations.
Summary. A Sabbath basis for sustainable develop-
ment must be built on the connection between creation
and covenant. Covenant principles encompass the rela-
tionship between all persons in the faith community as
well as the relationship between persons and the whole
creation (Miller, 1979). Sustainable development is as
much a communal affair as an individual matter. When
the covenant relationships are broken, a corresponding
disorder is experienced in creation as a consequence.
When injustice is allowed in the community, this can be
disruptive to the sustainability and productivity of the
physical environment. And when covenant relationships
are redeemed, when reconciliation occurs, this has a cor-
responding positive impact on flourishing life (shalom)
for all of creation.
The findings from Covenant and Creation theol-
ogy are summarized in Table 1, which illustrates the dual
emphases in the Sabbath concept directly from Scripture.
In the creation account (Genesis), the commission to sub-
due the earth (development) is coupled with the purpose
of serving the earth (sustainability). Also, the giving of the
covenant (Exodus – Deuteronomy) includes directions for
economic and technological development (work, pruning,
harvest) that are constrained by keeping the weekly Sabbath
and the sabbatical. At the center of this is Sabbath.
Now that the biblical roots of Sabbath have been
traced, we must now consider the concept of sustain-
able development.
Sustainable development has been defined in various
ways depending on the particular perspective that is in
view. One broad definition comes from the work of the
World Commission on Environment and Development,
discussed below. This definition emphasizes the meeting
of human needs:
In essence, sustainable development is a process of
change in which the exploitation of resources, the
direction of investments, the orientation of tech-
nological development, and institutional change
JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015
Table 1: Sabbath is the Center of Sustainable Development in Scripture
Subdue the earth.
And God blessed them; and God said to them,
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and
subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and
over the birds of the sky, and over every living
thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”
(Exodus 20:9)
Six years you shall sow your field, and six years
you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its
crop. (Leviticus 25:3)
Serve the earth.
Then the LORD God took the man and put him
into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep
it. (Genesis 2:15)
“Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy…in
it you shall not do any work.…” (Exodus 20:8-
During the seventh year the land shall have a Sab-
bath rest, a Sabbath to the LORD; you shall not
sow your field nor prune your vineyard. (Leviti-
cus 25:4)
Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you
gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall
leave them for the needy and for the stranger...
(Lev 19:10)
JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015
are all in harmony and enhance both current and
future potential to meet human needs and aspira-
tions.” (Brundtland, 1987, 2.I.15.)
A variety of perspectives exist on the elements
of sustainable development objectives (Hermans &
Knippenberg, 2006). Imbedded in the phrase, sustainable
development are two kernels of truth. First, the term sus-
tainable refers to providing care for the entire earth such
that the present generation and future generations can
enjoy the rich bountiful earth at the same time as conserv-
ing resources while contributing to a flourishing ecology.
Second, the term development refers to the need to make
wise use of the earth for ongoing and flourishing life.
Accordingly, sustainable development has been defined
as “meeting the needs of the present generation without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet
their own needs” (Blowfield & Murray, 2008, p. 235).
These two kernels of truth are consistent with the
three dimensions of organized international efforts that
have taken over the last thirty to forty years: environ-
mental needs, economic development, and social justice.
These three dimensions are interrelated and interde-
pendent. Each dimension requires the other two. If one
dimension is emphasized to the detriment of the others,
all dimensions suffer over the long run.
Secular writers on the topic of sustainable development
make no explicit reference to Sabbath, though some have
seen the connection between religion and sustainable devel-
opment (Bhagwat, Ormsby & Rutte, 2011). Sustainable
development scholars have identified some ethical values
that may be the assumptions behind discussions on the
topic. For example, Hermans and Knippenberg (2006) dis-
cuss the variety of perspectives on the elements of sustain-
able development objectives. Justice, ecosystem resilience,
economic progress, durability, and efficiency are commonly
mentioned as values. When considering the various points
of view, the common denominators seem to be the ideas
of justice, ecosystem resilience, and efficiency. Most pro-
ponents of sustainable development include not only the
current generation but also future generations.
The World Commission on Environment and
The Brundtland Report (Brundtland, 1987) of the
World Commission on Environment and Development
was not the first to raise awareness of the problems of
environment and development; however, its timing was
important. Coming at a time when the arms race also had
peaked, the commission first met in October 1984. The
race for natural resources had been going on for decades but
was picking up momentum. The commission, independent
of but collaborating with the United Nations, focused its
attention on “population, food security, the loss of species
and genetic resources, energy, industry, and human settle-
ments — realizing that all of these are connected and can-
not be treated in isolation one from another” (Brundtland,
1987, Chapter 1, para. 40).
For over two years, commission members worked to
create a report on the key issues. Their report included the
following findings:
• Environmental crisis is inseparable from eco-
nomic crisis and energy crisis.
• Accelerating population growth, especially in
urban areas is occurring.
• Mostofthegrowthofindustrialproductionhas
occurred since 1950.
• The resources gap is widening between the
“have” nations and the “have not” nations.
• The influence of industry in policy making is
heavy; yet, the industrial sector has used much
of the planet’s ecological capital. For decades,
industries have taken more out of the earth than
they have put back.
• The needs of small farms have been largely
ignored in developing countries.
• Natural resources in some countries such as
Latin America were being used to pay down
national debts instead of for development.
• Povertyandunemploymentincreased.
• Institutions that are interested in finding solu-
tions to specific problems tend to work indepen-
dently of other institutions trying to solve other
problems that are related.
• Economies of countries are linked worldwide.
It is not just the economy of a few particular
nations that need further development, but the
entire world economy needs to be developed in a
way that is sustainable rather than unsustainable.
• Some population groups are more vulnerable
than other groups. The vulnerable need to be
• Politicalstability, peace, andsecurity also must
be established; otherwise the other problems can-
not be managed.
• Sharedleadershipis needed to changethepoli-
cies of nations and international organizations
that all nations can agree upon. New policies
must emerge from international cooperation and
within international legal frameworks.
Economic development needed to be sustained, but
the environment also needed to be sustained and cared for
and the poor also needed care. Clearly, these somewhat
competing interests needed to be managed together rather
than separately. Needed was coordination among govern-
ment organizations, non-government organizations, cul-
tural organizations, scientific researchers, and commerce
(just to name a few of the key players).
Other initiatives related to the work of the World
Commission have produced guidelines for businesses,
especially multinational enterprises. For example the
UN Global Compact and the CAUX Principles offer
guidelines for business in terms of sustainable devel-
opment. Barkemeyer, Holt, Preuss, and Tsang (2014)
wonder if the original vision of the World Commission
has been lost.
UN Commission on Sustainable Development and
Following the work of the World Commission, in
1992 the United Nations established the UN Commission
on Sustainable Development. In 2009 the UN General
Assembly adopted a resolution to convene a Conference
on Sustainable Development in 2012.
During the intervening years in over a dozen sessions
convened by the Commission, the ideas of sustainable
development have also become one of the most popular
themes across economic sectors and around the world.
Goals have been established to guide the efforts of the
world community of nations and institutions (United
Nations, 2014).
These goals of sustainable development, and the
dialogue that has arisen among members of the UN
Commission-related entities, are essentially attempts to
reconcile, or find ways to manage, the sometimes com-
peting goals of economics, social justice for current and
future generations, and responsible care for the earth over
the long term.
Creation and covenant, the two dominant roots of
Sabbath, provide from a biblical perspective the ethical
principles upon which sustainable development can suc-
ceed. Providing for the poor and caring for the earth are
factors that place constraints on economic development.
These constraints become a structural factor which, over
time, can gradually limit unbridled egoism. Similarly,
Sabbath, a miniature representation of the entire covenant
in terms of the purpose of these principles, is designed as
a structural constraint on selfishness. By keeping, Sabbath
we limit our economic development, give the earth rest
while caring for the poor. Sabbath is the short-run experi-
ence of a long-term vision of well-being.
Accordingly, the point of this review is that the goals
that have come from these international collaborative
efforts, though mainly secular, find a close, but not per-
fect, parallel with Sabbath-shalom principles rooted in
creation and covenant. Additionally, these goals are exam-
ples of the deeper principles at work in Sabbath-keeping
with one exception, which will be presented below.
Caring for the poor must include eliminating poverty
and hunger. If poverty and hunger are not eliminated or
drastically reduced, these evils will diminish the ability of
the earth and communities to provide for all. Poverty and
hunger cause social unrest and migration of people. As a
result, physical and political safety of food and communi-
ties could be threatened. Nations that have plenty would
receive pressure to care for the destitute. The burden of
poverty worldwide could become an excessive constraint
on economic development. Economic development
assumes that most people are contributing to their own
needs as well as the needs of others. By caring for the earth
in a sustainable way, we increase the carrying capacity of
the earth to the benefit of all. Economic development also
must encompass rich and poor. To accomplish this, elimi-
nating poverty and hunger requires sharing wisdom. But
wisdom is not a one-way communication process. It, too,
is a communal dialogue that involves access to education.
These deeper principles are further illustrated and
expanded upon in Table 2, which compares the UN
Commission goals for 2030 with the deeper implications
of both creation and covenant based on the theological
foundation laid out above.
The goals of the UN Commission are challenging and
difficult. They reflect deeply intractable problems highly
resistant to even organized intervention. Progress thus
far in each major region has been limited. One reason,
of course, is the complex nature of heretofore intractable
problems. Another is the structural limitation of the
coordinating efforts. For example, in Europe with twenty-
four nations participating, Steurer and Hametner (2013)
believe that while some positive advances have been
accomplished, only a small fraction of the total potential
has been reached from international coordinated efforts
across public and private sectors. The structural limita-
tions point to yet another tension at work in this process
— namely, the need for coordination at the international
policy level that is co-present with the need for systemic
changes at the local level. National leaders may be able
to promise that their country will support policies and
JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015
JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015 43
Table 2: UN Commission Goals Compared with Theological Roots of Sabbath
UN Commission Goals 2030
1. Eradicate poverty in all its
forms everywhere
2. End hunger; achieve food
security and improved nu-
trition; promote sustain-
able agriculture
3. Promote physical well-
being of all ages.
4. Achieve inclusive and
equitable access to educa-
tion and life-long learning
5. Achieve greater gender
equality for women and
6. Ensure availability of
water & sanitation.
7. Ensure access to afford-
able, reliable, sustainable
8. Foster sustained economic
growth that is inclusive
including employment
and decent work for all.
9. Build a resilient infrastruc-
ture for industrial develop-
ment and innovation.
Theological Roots of Sabbath-Shalom
Creation envisions bountiful prosperity for all. Covenant relationships com-
prehend the caring for the poor and structuring relationships so that poverty
is mitigated.
Creation provides the variety of food-bearing plants through a sustainable system
of reproduction by way of seed propagation. Humans care for the land to increase
its carrying capacity. Covenant relationships provide a means by which the whole
community can experience the value that comes with food.
Creation describes the foundation of respect for physical health, life and well-
being. Covenant relationships are structured so that flourishing life is fostered
leading to shalom. But, shalom is not complete until both seniors and children
(and their children) experience flourishing life.
Creation occurred by the wisdom and power of God. Covenant relationships are
fostered as we learn and share with each other the wisdom of ways in which the
benefits of shalom can be experienced in different ways in different places.
Creation establishes the interdependence between men and women. Creation
also raises the value of females beyond the bare minimum set by the UN. Both
sexes must work together in order for the true potential of flourishing life can be
realized. Covenant relationships are founded on the principle that it is the rela-
tionship that must be nurtured. Any relationship must include extended relation-
ships among all in the community.
Creation comprehends the vital importance of water for the sustenance of life.
Water is the life-giving fluid necessary for day-to-day existence of humans and
animals. The water cycle recognized by King Solomon (humidity from oceans
and lakes rises to the sky, rain feeds the earth, rain water drains into streams and
rivers and back to the ocean and lakes) carries the gift of sustaining life.
In order for humans to fulfill the commission to have dominion over and care
for the earth and all living things, energy must be expended. Forms of energy can
be found to mitigate the impact of toilsome labor on life. Covenant relationships
must be considered when new forms of energy are developed such that the impact
of energy sources does not create toilsome labor, injustice or harm to creation.
Creation and covenant both envision humans working in community. Persons in
community share in the contributions to the greater good of community goal of
a flourishing life. Work itself contributes to the sustenance of social flourishing as
well as physical well-being.
Shalom, if it is to be a community experience shared widely, must be achieved
by concerted effort. This requires entrepreneurial and moral leadership. It also
requires organizing human effort in groups in ways that foster covenant relation-
ships. Organizing results in the creation of interconnected human groups which
work together forms the community infrastructure to foster shalom.
JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015
Table 2: UN Commission Goals Compared with Theological Roots of Sabbath (continued)
10. Reduce inequality within
and among countries.
11. Make cities and human
settlements resilient, safe
and sustainable.
12. Foster sustainable con-
sumption and production
13. Combat climate change.
14. Conserve and sustainably
use the oceans and other
marine resources.
15. Protect, restore and pro-
mote the sustainable use
of the earth.
16. Promote peaceful inclusive
societies that maintain ac-
cess to justice.
17. Strengthen the means and
partnerships needed for
sustainable development.
Creation provided the basis of the entire earth and its systems to support life.
This is a whole planet. As the carrying capacity of the earth has increased, so has
the technical sophistication with which humans interact with each other. Cov-
enant relationships must not be seen as limited by national borders or geographic
boundaries. Thus, relationships necessary for sustaining life must be viewed as
global rather than local.
Creation provides the larger context in which humans organize their efforts for
flourishing life. As humans gather together in close proximity to each other to
gain the benefits of production efficiencies, these arrangements themselves must
be sustainable. Covenant relationships must not ignore the structured living ar-
rangements of the persons in community who are working together to foster sha-
lom. The creation theme begun in Genesis becomes transformed into re-creation
allowing for the presence of city in Revelation.
In both creation and covenant we find the foundations for production and con-
sumption. Production will require organized effort. Production must also be lim-
ited by Sabbath. Consumption requires placing limits on what otherwise would
be unfettered desires.
Creation narrative tells of the need to serve and care for the earth. Covenant
relationships extend not only across the current community but also across the
generations. The current generation cannot say it is prosperous until the grand-
children are prosperous.
Creation shows the separation of the land from the water. This specialization
provides for efficient production of life in both. Covenant relationships, modeled
by God, encompass humans and all living things.
Air, water and land continue to be the key resources for life regardless of whether
people live in urban areas or rural areas. The land is still one of the basic resources
upon which human food sources depend. Land is the primary home of humans
and this home must be included in covenantal relationships. It is holy, set apart
for special service, to God.
Creation and covenant both envision the communities where justice is spread
throughout. Justice is like a life-giving stream that flows down like a river to nour-
ish all in the community. Covenant relationships must be structured in such as
manner so that justice is the foundation of how we make decisions regarding the
use of this earth and its resources.
Creation and covenant offer the root thinking fundamental to seeing relationship
as a partnership where all parties involved understand the good that can be given
to others in all that is done. Covenantal thinking is all about the relationship and
making the relationship outlive any one transaction or exchange. Thus, shalom
must involve work to nourish these partnerships that are necessary for imple-
menting shalom-producing policies.
UN Commission Goals 2030 Theological Roots of Sabbath-Shalom
JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015 45
procedures that foster sustainable development, but local
leaders interested in benefiting in the short term may be
hesitant to support with actions the promises that have
been made.
As much as the Commission goals align with prin-
ciples of shalom that one would think could be widely
shared values, regional and local values are also competing
for attention. What is shalom for some stakeholders may
be perceived as contrary to shalom by other stakeholders.
Christians, as they come to more fully understand the
importance of Sabbath, will increasingly take leadership
roles in the global conversation about sustainable develop-
ment. Such a conversation will involve sharing leadership
with others on multiple points of emphasis.
Christians training to become business leaders will
see their role as much larger than becoming successful in
business, as important as this might be for bringing glory
to God. Success in business is indeed important as it
contributes to the development dimension of sustainable
development. But when business success dominates the
goals and agenda of Christians in business without regard
for the poor or the earth, then it begins to undermine the
other dimensions of sustainable development. It may be
true that business has done more to eliminate poverty and
hunger than any other single sector of society; however,
generally business, as an institution in society, has not had
as its goal the principles of flourishing life. The larger pur-
pose of business when seen through the lens of Sabbath
becomes fostering flourishing life, both now and in the
future, serving the people closest to us while keeping in
mind how those the farthest away from us (geographically
and culturally) are impacted.
A parallel exists between the UN Commission goals
and biblical ideas. An important difference also exists:
Faith relationship with God is characterized by loyalty
to absolute, objective moral standards which lie outside
the human community. While the efforts of the UN
Commission appear to be efforts toward shalom, nothing
in the UN Commission’s goals expresses the importance
of spirituality and agreement upon fundamental, absolute
moral principles. The conversation regarding generally
accepted moral principles — GAMP (Cafferky, 2014)
— has been running concurrently with, but not in close
coordination with, the global conversation regarding sus-
tainable development.
Another difference is over the issue of ownership. The
UN Commission’s assumption appears to be that humans
are merely co-owners of the earth. In contrast, Scripture
states that the earth belongs to God (Genesis 1:31;
Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 24:1). As God’s agents or
stewards, humans have the responsibility to care for what
God owns. This is not an unimportant distinction. As
stewards, we answer to an authority structure higher than
any that humans might create. Our motivation combines
an interest in sustaining flourishing life with bringing
honor to God by imitating his character of sustaining life.
The global sustainable development conversation
seems to be an attempt to mix two things that cannot mix:
Moral relativism and principles of Sabbath-shalom. Moral
relativism is based on the belief that if two cultural groups
have opposing views of morality, both can be right. In
contrast, Sabbath-shalom principles are based on the
belief that God is the source of absolute, objective moral
principles. These two views are in contradiction.
Herein lies what may be the weakness of the sustain-
able development goals represented above. Without an
absolute, objective moral standard, outside and above any
given society or cultural group to which the bulk of cul-
tures and nations agree, the complicated efforts focused
on sustainable development on a global scale may not
progress much farther in the future.
One could argue that the goals, and the principles
underlying these goals, are an attempt to articulate com-
monly agreed moral values so necessary to further success.
This may be the case; however, given the differences that
exist, unless the UN goals are integral to spirituality, suc-
cess worldwide may be limited.
The opposite extreme is dangerous and has the poten-
tial for destroying the efforts of the UN Commission and
related entities. For example, if someday someone gets the
bright idea that everyone on earth should be required to
worship the same God in exactly the same way, that loy-
alty to God must be expressed in the same ways the world
over, that everyone must be forbidden to do business on
a particular day of the week, religious faith would become
oppressive as it has been in the past. Accordingly, one
additional tension exists in the sustainable development
dialogue as well as in the conversation about Sabbath —
namely, the importance of preserving freedom to choose
within boundaries.
It is the thesis of this paper that, in general, the points
of emphasis by the UN Commission are in close, but not
perfect, alignment with the biblical concept of Sabbath-
shalom. Sabbath begins at creation and is the substance
JBIB • Volume 18, #1 • Spring 2015
and symbol of God’s care for this earth. In Sabbath, we
rest in God’s sustaining power. Sabbath also is integral to
covenant relationships. This means that Sabbath is not
merely about care for the environment but also about care
for all relationships envisioned by the concept of shalom.
Both the creation roots and covenant roots link Sabbath
to redemption and recreation. Together, these roots give
us the direction that humans will journey when caring for
each other and for this earth.
In the recent 30 years work of the commissions ref-
erenced above, we see elements of both creation thinking
and covenantal thinking present. While not explicitly
a religious work, the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development is in close alignment with the implications
that come from deeper principles of Sabbath-keeping.
However, the fatal flaw in the sustainable development
movement may be that it appears to be based on cul-
tural relativism, which is inherently opposed to Sabbath-
shalom. A set of commonly agreed moral boundaries
frames the next frontier of dialogue among promoters of
sustainable development if we expect further progress in
such a complicated set of issues.
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ABoUt tHE AUtHor
Michael Cafferky is the
Ruth McKee Chair for
Entrepreneurship and Business
Ethics at Southern Adventist
University. He is the author of
two peer-reviewed textbooks:
Management: A Faith-based
Perspective (Pearson Education,
Inc., 2012) and Business Ethics in
Biblical Perspective: A Comprehensive Introduction (forth-
coming from InterVarsity Press, 2015).
... Thus, Sabbath is a miniature representation of all the principles of a flourishing relationship with God, namely, his Law. Cafferty (2015) sees two dimensions of the Sabbath -a creation dimension and a covenant dimension -that both point to the Earth stewardship of humans. In its creative dimension, located in Exodus 20:8-10, the Earth is seen as gift and the Sabbath is also a gift, "designed to foster a deepening relationship between God and humankind, a gift which represents the reality of a joyful life of peace (shalom) envisioned for all God's creatures" (Cafferty 2015: 36). ...
... Restraint from burdening nature through the processes of production and consumption, which the Sabbath requires, correlates with scientific truths about ecosystem regeneration, hence are eco-dimensional. Human restraint in our interactions with the earth is necessary for maintaining balance between work (industrial production) and rest (period of worship of God and physical justice for the earth to regenerate for a healthy eco-system balance) (Cafferty 2015). Simple indigenous and subsistent agricultural practices, such as shifting cultivation teach us this simple fact of land and wildlife regeneration if the land rests. ...
Full-text available
In terms of goals and approaches, the potentials of religion and faith communities have had a prolonged marginalisation from the rather intense academic and political engagements in the suitability discourse with a consensus on the concept of sustainability as both an approach and a goal. In this paper, I argue that the highly religious African context would require a religiously inspired and phrased recourse towards a comprehensive sustainability, rather than a solely secular concept of environmental sustainability. This is much more so when environmental sustainability is largely a secular vision of a religious one – environmental stewardship. Ignoring the beliefs, norms and values that faith communities generate in motivating human decisions and practical responsibilities that religious stewardship impose on the religious, would be working against any contextually pragmatic sustainability discourse in Africa. Therefore, using the Sabbath, this article suggests that the religious concept of environmental stewardship provides promise for a viable and workable moral framework for sustainability discourse in Africa. The paper concludes that this is practically realisable in two main ways (i) religious groups themselves as individuals or institutions/groups developing environmental sustainability norms and values, such as those of the Sabbath, as a moral duty, and (ii) religious norms and values, such as that of the Sabbath, serving as eco-dimensional resources for sustainable thinking.
... Our endeavors to create a functional, more just society will be incomplete if they are independent of understanding human flourishing and God's shalom. 54 R. H. Tawney argued that the inherent value and importance of the human person guide the United Kingdom's economic reconstruction following World War I and the influenza pandemic of 1918-20. Industry's primary purpose should be facilitating human flourishing. ...
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Christian historian R. H. Tawney’s book, The Acquisitive Society, was published in 1920 as Britain and the world emerged from the human tragedy and economic disruption that followed World War I and the 1918-1920 influenza pandemic. Tawney sought to influence the direction of reconstruction in the United Kingdom, arguing for an alternative path for business – serving the common good – as opposed to building personal wealth. This article examines Tawney’s functional society and contemporary common good conceptions of business for application in our emerging post-pandemic context. Several examples of businesses serving the common good are explored, and a framework for transitioning toward common good business practices is offered.
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It has been long observed within biblical theology and ministry that, among the many benefits of creation and redemption offered to mankind by the Holy Scriptures; that of Sabbath-rest has been almost overlooked. The growing need for Sabbath-rest observance as a counterbalance to our culture’s consumerism, exhaustion, and loss of segmentation between work and other life arenas is readily apparent. The purpose of this study therefore, was to explore the theology of rest and its applicability to contemporary Christians, with a view to initiate the development of a productive rest-model for adoption by pastoral care-givers in contemporary Charismatic Christian Churches (CCCs) in Ghana. The study, designed qualitatively, blended a mixture of content analysis of the scriptures and scholarly works on the theology of work and rest with semi-structured interviews of pastoral care-givers in selected CCCs in Accra. The interviews, taking a survey approach, aimed at gathering sufficient representative information from suitable respondents that would aid in developing a productive rest-model for pastoral care in contemporary CCCs. The study finds that, the day for Sabbath-rest observance is a day, or a “block of time” within the working week which one designates for restful respite, worship, reflection, and celebration of God’s goodness, love, mercy and justice. The study also finds and concludes that, rest is a core value with God, reflecting the divine work-rest patterns instituted at creation. However, although rest, as acknowledged in the study, is relevant and applicable to all humanity, it appears not to be a core value in contemporary CCCs. The study recommends through its productive rest model, the conscious observance of Sabbath-rest to foster a flourishing life, not only for contemporary CCCs, but for all humanity.
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Yahudi geleneğinde Şabat, çeşitli uygulama, ritüel, inanç, yasak ve kurallar içerisinde geçirilen ve kutsal kabul edilen bir gündür. Bu gün, Tanrı’nın, evreni yaratmasıyla ilişkilendirilmiştir. Bununla birlikte yine Tanrı’nın Sina dağında Musa peygamberle yapmış olduğu antlaşmanın bir sembolü olarak belirtilmiş ve Mısır’dan Çıkış’tan sonra çölde verilen emir ile tarihsel anlam kazanmıştır. Şabat, Musa peygambere verilen On Emir arasında yer almış ve Tanah içerisinde birçok pasukta bu konudan bahsedilmiştir. Yine İslâmî kaynaklarda da bu günün kutsiyetine, İsrailoğulları’ndan bazılarının bu günle ilgili kuralları ihlal etmesine ve bu ihlal neticesinde karşılaştıkları cezalara değinilmiştir. Özellikle de cumartesi gününün kutsiyetini, balık avlayarak ihlal eden kıyı halkının kıssası bu konuda oldukça ayrıntılı bilgi sunmuştur. Söz konusu kıssada yer alan cezanın niteliği hakkında ittifaka varılamamıştır. Bazı görüşlere göre ceza, ahlak bakımından psikolojik olarak, yine diğer görüşlere göre ise bedenen, fizyolojik olarak gerçekleşmiştir. Bu makalede Tanah metinleri bağlamında Yahudi geleneği açısından Şabat hakkında bilgiler verilecek, sonrasında ise Kur’an’da geçen ilgili kıssalar hakkında ileri sürülen görüşler ele alınıp değerlendirilecektir. Anahtar Kelimeler: Şabat, Aseret Adiberot, Tanah, Ashabu’s-Sebt, Mesh. Abstract In Jewish tradition, Sabbath is a day that is considered as holy, and is spent with various activities, rituals, beliefs, bans and rules. This day was associated with the God’s creation of the universe. In addition, it was also said to be the symbol of the agreement between god and Moses on the Mount Sinai, and was given a historical sense with the orders given to Moses after the Exodus from Egypt in the desert. Sabbath was included in the 10 Commandments given to the Prophet Moses, and this was mentioned in many Pasuks in Tanakh. Again, in Islamic sources, the violation of Israelites about the rules on this day and as a result, the punishment was mentioned. Especially the anecdote of the coastal people who violated the holiness of Saturday by fishing gave extreme details on this topic. There is no consensus on the quality of the punishment that was mentioned in this anecdote. According to some viewpoints, the punishment occurred in the form of morality as a psychological one; and according to some other viewpoints, this punishment was realized in physiological terms. In the present paper, information will be provided on Sabbath in terms of Jewish traditions and in the light of Tanakh, and then, viewpoints will be received on the relevant anecdotes mentioned in the Quran. Keywords: Sabbath, The Ten Commandments, Tanakh, Ashabu’s-Sebt, Mesh.
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This paper explores the ancient Hebrew Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, a traditional moral-religious framework for business conduct, in terms of its contribution to well-being. Some elements of the Decalogue align with what contemporary scholars believe are generally accepted moral principles common in society expected of businesses. This paper addresses the question of how all the elements of the Decalogue might contribute to economic success, an important dimension of the Hebrew concept of Shalom (well-being). The purpose of the Decalogue is established in the context of a covenant community of believers. Each of the Ten Commandments is evaluated in terms of its contribution to business success, and when scaled up to the societal level and commonly shared, to communal well-being.
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The world’s religions have made a contribution to environmental conservation and sustainable development through faith-based non-governmental organizations. Partnerships between secular conservation and development organizations and faith-based groups, however, are not always easy. Such partnerships face various challenges, including differences in worldviews, conflict between identities, and the attitudes and behavior of religious groups that may not be favorable to conservation and development. Despite a possible overlap of values, these incompatibilities can often cause tensions between secular organizations and religious groups. A number of examples, however, suggest that faith-based groups are starting to address these incompatibilities. We suggest that partnerships with faith groups might be valuable because these groups can enhance public support for conservation and development. While secular organizations need to work with faith groups on the basis of shared ethical or moral values, identifying effective ways to strengthen the linkages between secular organizations and faith groups is also necessary.
Consumption is linked, to both proverty and wealth: the poor underconsume, by definition, and the prosperous typically consume more than needed, often wastefully. Thus religious wisdom on poverty and wealth can be helpful in tackling the emerging ethical dilemma of global consumption. Restoring the forgotten wisdom buried in the sacred texts of the world's faith traditions could help to sketch out the principles for a new economies-principles that addresses the challenges of consumption and poverty simultaneously. Indeed, the power of inspirational and challenging religious messages to mobilize believers is at work on the consumption question in pockets around the world, from Sri Lanka and Alabama to the finance ministries of major creditor nations. In each case,religous teachings (see sidebar, for example) are awakening adherents to the moral dimension of consumption (and its offspring, debt and inequality), in some cases with measurable impact. They are a reminder of the power inherent in the founding visions of many of the world's faiths.
Philosophers generally agree that meaningful ethical statements are universal in scope. If so, what sense is there to speak about a business ethics particular to Judaism? Just as a Jewish algebra and a Jewish physics are contradictions in terms, so too, is the notion of a particularly Jewish business ethics. The goal of this paper is to deny the above assertion and to explore the potentially unique characteristic of a Jewish business ethics. Ethics, in the final analysis, is not like algebra or physics. Specifically, it is argued here that – in terms of substance – Jewish business ethics differs from secular approaches in three very specific ways. Jewish ethics: (1) recognizes God as the ultimate source of value, (2) acknowledges the centrality of the community, (3) and holds out the promise that men and women (living in community) can transform themselves. We define Jewish ethics as the interpretation of the written and oral Torah to determine what God commands us to be and to do. The paper carefully explores this definition and examines its specific implications for modern business ethics.
A literary-theological study of the Sabbath in Exodus 16 reveals two main biblical traditions, covenantal and priestly. In the covenantal tradition, the Sabbath provides a means of testing Israel's faith and readiness for a covenantal relationship with God. The priestly tradition presents the Sabbath as the completion of God's creation of the world. God's provision of the manna in the wilderness and the Sabbath points to a new understanding of holiness and time.