Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Jubilee & government functions

In the 25th chapter of Leviticus there is an interesting law... the Year of Jubilee. Every 50 years all debt was to be cancelled and all lands and property returned to the family that originally owned it. Due to hard work or luck on one family's part and or laziness or bad luck on another's, capital was consolidated in the hands of some families while others went without. It is a self-perpetuating system once it gets moving. Those with many resources get more. Those with few end up with less. God's wisdom did not allow for an aristocracy to form and one of the functions of the government was to re-allocate resources so that this consolidation would not become permanent.

Needless to say, scholars do not see evidence that the Year of Jubilee was ever observed. Those with resources... and power... wouldn't allow it to happen and those who would have benefited from the observance had no power to make it happen.

It continues to be a legitimate function of government to re-allocate resources so that those in need have enough. The estate tax, which should be called the Paris Hilton Tax, is one example. Those who have benefited from generations of consolidated wealth and from a system that enabled them to become so wealthy owe a significant portion to the society they live in. Some of that wealth needs to get spread around. Yet, some 16 of the nations 18 wealthiest families are fighting hard to have the tax repealed... (latest word is that the folk gathered in Washington DC for Pentecost 2006 where able to convince Frist to remove the bill from consideration at this time).

Another example of Jubilee at work today is affirmative action. It represents one more legitimate government attempt to break the patterns of consolidation of wealth and power by presenting those without some of the same opportunities and education enjoyed by the haves.

On an international scale, Jubilee might take the shape of forgiveness of debt to developing nations so their resources might be freed for actual development.

The list could go on... but it is critical that as a society we find ways to spread the wealth around and work to ensure that opportunity and resources are "distributed to all, as any have need" (Acts 2:45)

1 comment:

Dennis E. McFadden said...


Interesting use of the Jubilee concept (and Affirmative Action for that matter). I need to think about this one a bit.