year of jubilee

What the Bible Teaches About Capitalism

"Moses mit den Gesetzestafeln" via Wylio [http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/35
"Moses mit den Gesetzestafeln" via Wylio [http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3542205854]

The primary political conversation that is happening in our country isn’t a dualistic battle between a “free market” system and a “statist/socialist” one. It is determining which mix of institutions and organizations are best equipped to meet societal challenges and achieve collective goals while allowing for individual freedom and human flourishing.

There aren’t many people who would argue that we need a new federal bureaucracy to run all of our grocery stores. But, you will find people who have varying views as to the government’s role in ensuring that those in need have basic access to nutrition, or what information the government should mandate that growers, producers, or sellers of food disclose to consumers.

Rabbi Spero makes some important scriptural points as to the importance of personal responsibility, human creativity, and freedom, but fails to deal with any passages that might temper or balance his views of capitalism.

Divine Regulation

JESUS STANDS IN his hometown synagogue. He is handed the scroll. He unrolls it, finds Isaiah 61 and reads:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Jesus rolls up the scroll, sits down and says, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” In other words, you know how Isaiah said one day someone would proclaim these things. Well I just did! It’s on. The year of the Lord’s favor is on!

The Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55) was the centerpiece of an economic system instituted by God as the Israelites entered the Promised Land. In this system every seven years the Israelites were commanded to observe the Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:1-7, Deuteronomy 15:1-18). During this year, all debts were forgiven, slaves were set free, and the land was given rest from all sowing and reaping. In this theocratic agrarian society, Sabbatical year was a major regulatory act that imposed a yearlong cycle of rest for workers and the land in addition to the weekly Sabbath, which God instituted through the Ten Commandments. The Sabbatical year also affected merchants’ bottom lines. The cost of labor is a key factor in the ability of business to make a profit. Thus the command to free their slaves every seven years would have a profound effect on the ability of businesses to expand profits beyond modest margins.

The Year of Jubilee came at the end of seven seven-year cycles. In the 50th year, not only would debts be forgiven, slaves freed, and the land given rest, but also all land was returned to its original deed-holders, effectively banning outright the sale of land and only allowing land to be leased for 50 years or less.

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