Building Healthy Habits

Building Healthy Habits

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:9-10

Any bad habit that I’ve ever developed has simply come naturally. Whether it’s involved gluttony, lust, or drugs, I’ve repeated a self-gratifying behavior until it became a habit. Once it became a habit, it took little effort to do it, because it was simply a part of my life. To not do it would be unusual at that point.

Recovery then, has required a very different pattern of behavior. Instead of allowing that which comes naturally to become habits, I’ve had to purposefully repeat healthy behaviors until they’ve become ingrained in my life. This is very unnatural. For instance, it’s natural to sleep in every morning. For the last eight years though, I’ve made myself get up early to go to the gym. At first this required significant effort, but now, to not go would be unusual and it would be disruptive to my routine to stop. Healthy patterns of behavior don’t come as naturally as unhealthy patterns, but if I choose, I can ingrain good habits into my life.

In today’s passage, God taught the Israelites to make caring for the poor a part of their routine. When they harvested their crops, they were instructed to leave a portion of it behind. Yes, they’d have more for themselves if they took everything, but if they simply made a practice of leaving a little behind, they’d have enough, while providing for the poor. With this plan, compassion was simply built into their routine – a healthy habit – and to not do it would be unusual.

My wife and I have done something similar, building charitable giving into our budget. We’ve found we can’t wait until we have extra money to give, because we just spend it all. Rather, we’ve employed automatic withdrawal for our giving, so that it just comes out of every paycheck. That way, we’ve developed a budget that has giving built in. It’s become a part of our routine, and to not do it, would be unusual.

We all have good things we want to do. In theory, we’d like to help those less fortunate, but if we wait until we have extra money lying around, we’ll never get there. God’s plan then, makes a lot of sense – to build giving into our budget, making a habit of it, so that to not do it would be unusual. Obedience to God and caring for the poor shouldn’t be exceptional. Rather, we should purposefully make these behaviors a routine part of our lives.

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