Rolling Jubilee as a model of God’s grace

Bethany Keeley-Jonker

November 13, 2012

The things that Christ would do, if not done in the name of Christ, are ultimately done in vein. They have no real ability to do something important.

Is the occupy movement doing this for the glory of the Lord or for their own gain?

Daniel Dickerman
November 14, 2012

As a Christian, and as an Occupier, I'm doing this as a part of the gospel's mandate to love others and help the helpless.

Marta L.
November 14, 2012

I’m not sure how far you can (or should) carry the jubilee metaphor. The way I read the Bible, a true year of jubilee requires more than just forgiveness of some --or even all!-- of the debts, because when you buy up the debts the person who loaned the money still gets paid. Jubilee requires a more radical reboot of the economy, where you build your system around the expectation that once in a century everyone will go back to the original inheritance. Whatever income inequality you have, it would only be the kind that could build up in a generation or two. (It’s not socialism, btw; there’s still room for rewarding the successful - you just wouldn’t see the kind of inherited inequalities we get today.)

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great idea and I love the irony of using the market to heal the market’s harms. But I worry that by calling this a jubilee we downplay the real promise of the true jubilee. I’d say this plan has more in common with Christ’s radical love - he idea that a stranger would buy up your debt without any consideration of whether you deserve it or not. If I was deep in debt, that would be a powerful message.

November 15, 2012

Marta, I agree, the biblical jubilee is far more radical and systemic than this action. It's hard for me to imagine what it would mean today, because so much has changed in how the economy is structured, and some of us are very far from the original land of our ancestors.

James Gilmore
November 21, 2012

I agree... and think we in the Church should really be doing a lot of thinking about what Jubilee would look like in 21st century America. What would it look like for us to "go back to the original inheritance"? I think there's a specific and a general way of looking at this—both of which need to be taken up by the Church.

The specific reading of "original inheritance"—particularly salient in this season of Thanksgiving, given the event that holiday supposedly commemorates—is to do right by the Native Americans for whom this land is, in fact, their "original inheritance." Native Americans are, on the whole, the most economically oppressed ethnic group in this country; we need a serious investment from government, the Church, and individuals in restorative justice that, while it can never quite repay the Native American people for the damage and theft Europeans and their descendants inflicted on them, at least represents the first steps of an effort toward restoration and reconciliation.

But in the more general sense, I think we have to realize that the Jubilee provisions in Torah were really about ensuring that with every second generation, every child of Israel (who had a stake in the "original inheritance") would have access to the only means by which wealth was really created in that culture—the land. Acknowledging that large-scale, massive democratization of the means of production—in other words, wealth redistribution—is a crucial part of God's Kingdom vision for the economy is the first step in reorienting our Church and our culture towards God's economic values.

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