Why is a land-based economy so important? There are significant connections between this way of living and the relationship between man and God. Land-based living creates an environment that is conducive to godly living. Let’s consider some of the flow-on from being tied to the land.
First, stewardship requires that we become very familiar with the laws that govern land use. A symbiotic relationship requires cooperation; but more than that, it brings two living things together into an intimate association. Both man and the soil are living organisms, created by the same Being. The land is living and fragile and has to be sustained and maintained so as not to be damaged. By learning the laws God put in place to achieve this, the human mind becomes more focused on the One who created the land in the first place.
One law called for resting the land to maintain its fertility and to prevent draining its reserves. One year in seven the landowner was required to refrain from growing a crop for harvest: “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard” (Leviticus 25:3–4). The application of this law would obviously have an effect on the farmer’s plantings in the sixth and eighth years as well, thus forcing the landowner to think deeply about what he was doing. The application of this law orients the mind toward God as the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, and especially of human life.
Another important flow-on is a reorientation of what it means to prosper. Today we mostly think of prosperity in terms of economic success, which is growth-driven—perpetual growth being the generally accepted indicator of prosperity. Under God’s land-based system, prosperity takes on a totally different meaning. The future prosperity God promises features good crops, trees yielding their fruit, the increase of livestock, along with healthy children and the ability to live in safety. This concept is summarized by the prophet Micah: “Everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).
Along with this will be safeguards to limit perpetual economic growth. Under God’s system, the family farm cannot be swallowed up by agribusiness conglomerates as we so often see today. If a family gets into financial difficulties and is forced to sell off some or all of its property, that sale is not permanent. At the 50th year, “each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family” (Leviticus 25:10).
Prosperity will be linked more to a relationship with God (since He provides for their daily needs) than to economic success: “And the Lord will grant you plenty of goods, in the fruit of your body, in the increase of your livestock, and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season” (Deuteronomy 28:11–12). This is the measure of true prosperity—a fulfilled, contented and happy life stemming from the blessings of a faithful God.
A foundational aspect of land-based living is thus the support it provides for families: “And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families” (Numbers 33:54). The law provides safeguards for the inheritance to remain within the family.
Speaking of a future time, the prophet Ezekiel reiterated God’s law when he said, “The prince shall not take any of the people’s inheritance by evicting them from their property; he shall provide an inheritance for his sons from his own property, so that none of My people may be scattered from his property” (Ezekiel 46:18). This system provides the family with roots for each successive generation. As each family “tends and keeps” its own land, a strong sense of belonging is built, and as each generation is forced to consider the laws relating to their land, a strong sense of who has provided the land is also established.
God’s intent is to anchor the people to the land and in so doing make possible a strong personal relationship between them and Him.