Friday 06 May 2016

Bible Book:

"That fiftieth year will be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. For it is a jubilee: you shall eat only what the field produces." (vv. 11-12)

Leviticus 25:8-17 Friday 6 May 2016

Psalm: Psalm 86


Today's passage extends the principle that the people need tokeep holy time (Leviticus 23) to the land. God commandsthat the land itself will keep a Sabbath every seventh year. TheLord is still speaking through Moses from Mount Sinai, so thisteaching comes close after the construction of the tabernacle(tent) in which the ark of the covenant and stone tablets were keptamong the people (Exodus 40).

This passage is unique in the Hebrew Scriptures as it is the onlydirect teaching about property and land tenure, and what God has tosay would shock contemporary estate agents and housingmarkets.

Beyond the basic seventh year's rest from working the land, Godcommanded that after a cycle of seven of these sabbaticals thepeople would keep a jubilee year. In that 50th year, all landbought or sold would revert to its previous owner, and everyonewould regain any loss. Accordingly, the Lord instructed that whenpeople bought or sold land they should set the price based on howmany years remained before the jubilee, specifying that they wereselling only the number of harvests that remained, not the landitself.

The passage acknowledges the important role that economic ties playin keeping a society stable. The Lord gave instructions thatprotected stability over the long term, while allowing incentivefor individual hard work and improvement of land and wealth overthe space of a lifespan. More than that however, this passagetaught an ethic of land management that valued the health of thewhole people over the acquisition of much by a few. Wealth was tohave no value in and of itself, except as a loan from God to aidabundant life. Individuals were always to remember that they wereonly temporary stewards of the things in God's world.

The Jubilee2000 campaign worked to make banks and governments holdingloans to developing nations reduce or nullify their claim. The ideawas to redistribute the spoils of economic growth and developmentto the poorer parts of the world. This is the passage, amongothers, that inspired that campaign.

To Ponder

  • Do you think the practice of 'jubilee' is relevant to oursociety at all?
  • How do you feel about the things you own, whether you are richor poor in relation to those around you?
  • How does your economic life relate to your spirituality? Andvice versa?
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