Summary: Are there national economic principles in the Bible? Does God believe in economic equality? Is there a biblical basis of economic equality?
Are there national economic principles in the Bible? Does God believe in economic equality? Is there a biblical basis of economic equality? Purpose: Let’s look at one of the most wonderful economic laws ever written and its implications for us. Plan: Let’s look at the Jubilee, how it could bring great national blessings, and what it pictures for our eternity.
Leviticus 25:1-7 Sabbatical Year
Imagine saving up to take a year off every seven years. The land sabbath was enshrined in God’s law, “in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord.” (Leviticus 25:4) The soil remained untilled. The people trusted God for a bountiful harvest in the sixth year. The people were reminded that God is the landlord and we are the tenants. The people were taught generosity to both staff and stranger. Debts were canceled (Deuteronomy 15:1-2). Leisure time was to be devoted to the study of God’s word (Deuteronomy 31:10-11) and for neighbors to rejoice with their children.
Leviticus 25:8-24 Jubilee Year
The seventh land sabbath flowed into the fiftieth year, the Jubilee, a year of release. Land could be leased until the Jubilee Year, but then had to be given back to the original owners. Slaves to debt would have their debts terminated. This is greater freedom than exists in the “land of the free.” “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 25:10) This is a market correction from outside the market, an end of oppression (verse 17). The Jubilee pictures our everlasting Sabbath, all wrongs being righted, restoration to our rightful places, freedom from the oppression of sin.
Leviticus 25:25-28 Treatment of the Poor
Reagan’s Reaganomics and Clinton’s financial deregulation gave middle-class incomes to the wealthy. Middle-class incomes should be 50-100% higher than they are, but poverty is increasing. The greatness of a nation is not measured in the might of its armies, or the size of its gross domestic product, but by how it treats its poor. The Jubilee cries, “loose the bonds of wickedness… undo the heavy burdens… let the oppressed go free… break every yoke… share your bread with the hungry… bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him… Then your light shall break forth like the morning” (Isaiah 58:6-8).
References: After Tax Income by Income Group, 1979-2007, Historical US Income Inequality, How the Middle Class Became the Underclass, Income Inequality in the United States
An Ethical Law
Albino Barrera writes in his book Economic Compulsion And Christian Ethics, “A Jubilee year was to be proclaimed every fifty years during which land was returned to its original owners, debt was written off, and those in bondage were released (Lev. 25).” “The Promised Land was divided with great care in which the allotment took into account the soil’s fertility and family size... ancestral land served the practical value of enabling every household to maintain its freedom and independence by providing for itself. Thus, the Jubilee Law… and the numerous admonitions to redeem family land had their practical utility in ensuring that households supported and sustained themselves through their own efforts.”
The Jubilee proclaimed liberty in: returning to the family inheritance, freedom from debt slavery, and a rest from farming for a year. This is not redistribution of land. It was already distributed fairly across Israel. Land could be leased up to fifty years and people could sell their labor in debt slavery, indentured servitude. Jubilee is not a principle of “income equality” but “asset equality,” or better “equality of opportunity.” The income derived from those equally distributed resources would depend on a number of factors such as health, work ethic, ability, peace and so on. Jubilee symbolizes setting free from the bondage of sin and practical Christian love of neighbor.
The Catholic Encyclopedia gives several advantages of the Jubilee Year, which can be abbreviated: it prevents the few accumulating and hurting the rest; nobody should be born poor, since everyone had hereditary land; it prevents the rich bullying the poor; it provides an end of slavery to debt; it provides fresh opportunities to begin life again; it prevents the scourge of class bigotry, and preserves society.
Such a perfect law would bless any nation with justice, individual freedom and guarantees of economic fairness. Above all, it foreshadows the wonderful hope of our future inheritance that nobody will ever take away from us. “In My Father’s house are many [dwelling places]” (John 14:1-3) and “everyone shall sit under his [own] vine and under his [own] fig tree, And no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.