01 March 2009

a jubilee of rebooting the economy

In recent weeks, there has been no shortage of opinions expressed about the various economic stimulus packages in this country, as well as those implemented in countries all over the globe. One description that I’ve found particularly interesting is that it represents a “rebooting” of the economy. It’s an interesting term, since “rebooting” means to shut down the power and start again.

I don’t think any of the economic plans around the world are quite that radical. Certainly, none of them are as radical as what the Bible describes in Leviticus 25 as the year of jubilee. That’s when the Israelites were to “hallow the fiftieth year and…proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family” (v. 10). After seven times seven years—in the fiftieth year—all Hebrew slaves were to be released and all property was to revert to the original owners or descendants.

This is really rebooting the economy! Following this principle would prevent gross inequities in society; it would help prevent the formation of a permanent underclass. It isn’t known if the Israelites ever actually observed the year of jubilee. There are hints of partial observance, but not much else. Of course, today’s economy is vastly different from what existed then. If the year of jubilee was deemed unworkable then, how much more would it be now?

One lesson of the year of jubilee is that we’re all in this together. The few can’t be allowed to prosper at the expense of the many. No one is “self-made.” We all rely on others; ultimately, we rely on God. I’m hardly an economist, but it seems that keeping that in view will go a long way toward re-thinking how we structure our economy and society in the 21st century.

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