“Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts.” As I’ve thought about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, it has occurred to me that a mechanism to prevent the widespread debt we see in our country—and around the world—was given to us thousands of years ago in the form of the sabbatical year. The above quote comes from Deuteronomy 15:1. Leviticus 25 outlines the year of Jubilee, which occurs every fifty years. Today, we might call it “land reform.”
Biblical scholars are unsure how faithfully these measures were practiced. There is a half-hearted attempt during the time of Jeremiah. The prophet has been warning the people about the impending Babylonian invasion. In chapter 34, we see the wealthy grant release to their slaves, but then think twice about it and go back on their word. Perhaps they thought that they would ruin the economy!
In any event, I’m not the only one who thinks implementing these measures in some form is urgent public policy—that is, if we’re serious about dealing with the immense burden of debt our country carries. For that to happen, however, the large banks that run our nation would have to be reined in. As a society, we would have to decide that the extreme disparity between rich and poor is no longer acceptable.