by Rev. Dustin Bartlett
I’m always surprised by how many Christians who are otherwise well-versed in the Bible have never heard of Jubilee. Are you familiar with Jubilee? Before you say, “Yes!” – I’m not talking about the lamest of all X-Men. No, Jubilee is the ultimate reset button. It’s a year of rest, renewal, and a clean start.
According to the Bible, every seventh day is a Sabbath day – a day of rest. People aren’t supposed to work on the seventh day of the week, but instead spend that time in reflection, prayer, and leisure. In the same way, every seventh year was supposed to be a Sabbath year. Farmers weren’t supposed to plant any new crops, or prune their vineyards. The land, itself, was given a year of rest.
But Jubilee represents the ultimate Sabbath year. After seven sets of Sabbath years, on the fiftieth year, the trumpet announced Jubilee. In the year of Jubilee all debts were forgiven, all slaves were set free, and all property which had been repossessed to pay off debts was returned to the family from which it was originally taken. Jubilee was the ultimate fail-safe in preventing the rich from getting richer as the poor got poorer. Every fifty years, the national economy was reset!
I always think it’s interesting how many business owners will refuse to make a cake or arrange flowers for a gay couple “because it says so in the Bible,” yet none of them are ever clamoring for a chance to erase all their invoices every fifty years.
Seriously, can you imagine what would happen if Christians chose Jubilee as the part of the Bible they insisted their political candidates support! Can you imagine evangelical Christians only voting for candidates who would promise to uphold the sanctity of Jubilee, and have all debts forgiven and all repossessed property returned every fifty years!
The year of Jubilee is what Jesus was referring to when he preached a sermon in his hometown and said:
“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.” (Luke 4:18-19)
I realize that a resetting of all debts every fifty years is probably not practical in our modern, global economy. But I do think it’s worth noting that God was so concerned about the problem of the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor that God basically exercised the nuclear option to take care of the problem. God cares about the poor and the powerless, and judges us according to whether or not we care too.
So, as we begin a new year, take a moment and read Leviticus 25, and reflect on this ancient Biblical mandate. Jubilee means that, in order to have a clean slate and a fresh start, you can’t hold on to the advantages you may have accumulated over others. Every so often, you’ve got to hit the reset button.
Have a jubilant New Year!