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Sabbaths: Leviticus 23–25

Right in the middle of a list of Sabbaths and feasts and festivals and fasts, there’s an instruction that should change the shape of business:

Leviticus 23:22 When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.

To business everywhere, it’s a rebuke to the concept of squeezing every last dollar of profit (or euro or pound or rupee or yuan or peso) out of an enterprise, its workforce and its resources.

It’s an instruction to think about the social effects of our business practices.

Then add in these instructions from Leviticus 19:

Leviticus 19:13 Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. Do not make your hired workers wait until the next day to receive their pay.

15 Do not twist justice in legal matters by favoring the poor or being partial to the rich and powerful. Always judge people fairly.

35-36 Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or volume. Your scales and weights must be accurate. Your containers for measuring dry materials or liquids must be accurate. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.

The call was for people to be righteous in their business conduct, just as they’re to be righteous in their personal lives. There is no separation of the personal and professional.

It’s an instruction to take personal responsibility for business decisions.

Dumping waste because it’s cheaper than disposing of it safely? Banning seed saving (or promoting infertile seed) because it might harm a large seed company’s profits? Adulterating food supplies to cheat quality tests? Dumping cheap produce into a country to deliberately undercut local food production? Tricking people into mortgages they can’t afford? Squeezing suppliers to make more profit on the supermarket shelves? Underpaying workers, using child slave labour?

All these practices, and more, fall away under these commands.

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