Year of Jubilee

Category: By Christian
Last night we had our monthly leader's meeting at The Hope Center. During the first part of this meeting we always gather together to discuss an article or part of a book. Last night the main topic was the Year of Jubilee, and how we are supposed to apply it in our current social context.

The Year of Jubilee is a concept from the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) where every 50 years land would go back to its original owners. It's talked about quite a bit in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Is one of the laws that was built into ancient Israelite society in an effort to prevent class stratification. There are actually quite a few of those laws in the first few books of the Bible, demonstrating the passion that God has for people to retain their dignity as God's creations.

Well, the hardest question for everyone to wrestle with was how we can apply concepts like the Year of Jubilee today. Land redistribution would be pretty messy because with the globalization of the world, people would own tracts of land (or partial tracts) all over the world. Plus, since so many people (mostly brown-skinned people) had their land forcefully taken from them both on this continent and on other continents, it would be pretty impossible to make sure everyone got their fair share.

That being the case, I still think it is of the utmost importance that Christians find ways to obey the spirit of the law. The issue behind the issue with Jubilee year is upward mobility within society. When the law was written, one needed land to be considered a viable member of society. Poor people sometimes had to sell their land, or sometimes land got taken away from people because of social customs (ie, women couldn't own land, so they were in trouble if their husbands ever died or left them). Thus, returning land to people became a avenue to make sure people had opportunities to be upwardly mobile in the society. It was also a safeguard against a few people owning most of the land and social capital.

And this becomes the hard part, because the bar was set pretty high. At the risk of being called a Communist, I have to contend that we must be more radical and proactive with are giving. We must also combine this with strategies that attack the systems that contribute to problems of class stratification as opposed to just attacking the signs that those systems are indeed working in harmful ways. Macro-solutions can be pretty unappealing because they can drastically change the ways in which people who hold power and wealth live life, but as a person who has a relative amount of both I don't really care. But I guess our passion on the issue is going to depend on how much we believe that poverty and inequality are things that God is really passionate about.

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