RELIGION ROUNDTABLE

Restore the promise of prosperity for all

The Hebrews understood the threat that was posed by the concentration of wealth in society. This issue is compounded when those holdings are passed through generations, as affluence becomes political power.

To temper that reality, the Hebrew society created a system whereby every seven years indentured servitude was canceled out, and every 50 years all holdings reverted back to their original holders. This celebration of jubilee prevented the formation of both permanent slave classes and perpetual aristocracy.

In the contemporary world, both servant classes and aristocracies exist. The poor and working poor often take on debt through payday lender schemes and rent-to-own merchandise. With the skyrocketing cost of higher education, many students enter into the real world carrying tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. The opportunity to transition from a lower class strata to a middle class life remains elusive for most.

At the same time, developing nations carry debts they cannot possibly pay, leading to the suffering of billions.

A contemporary practice of jubilee would take seriously the plight of those whose financial burdens are crushing by exchanging community and civil service for lessening debts.

Similarly, recent graduates could exchange service for debt forgiveness.

The cycles that are formed by the debilitating weight of debt can serve to leave debtors in permanent states of second-class citizenry. Jubilee would take seriously the Hebrew calling to make sure that never happens.

— The Rev. Dr. James D. McLeod Jr., First Presbyterian Church, Anniston

Debts are forgiven, through God’s mercy

Yubal, or “jubilee,” in Leviticus 25 describes Shimita, the Sabbatical years, and technically deals with land and property rights. “Count off seven Sabbaths of years — seven times seven years: Seven Sabbaths of years adds up to 49 years. Then sound loud blasts on the ram’s horn on the 10th day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement … sanctify the 50th year; make it a holy year. Proclaim freedom all over the land to everyone who lives in it — a Jubilee for you: Each person will go back to his family’s property and reunite with his extended family. The 50th year is your Jubilee year: Don’t sow; don’t reap what volunteers itself in the fields; don’t harvest the untended vines because it’s the Jubilee and a holy year for you. You’re permitted to eat from whatever volunteers itself in the fields. In this year of Jubilee everyone returns home to his family property. If he is not redeemed in any of these ways, he goes free in the year of Jubilee, he and his children, because the People of Israel are my servants, my servants whom I brought out of Egypt. I am God, your God.”

During the Year of Jubilee, God’s mercy is demonstrated, debts are forgiven and prisoners are set free. Global observance of a Jubilee holy year could impact culture, potentially liberate the oppressed and bring unity.

— Beverly Mattox, Word Alive International Outreach