The Biblical book of Leviticus is a tedious read, and so, with the exception of homophobic rants about a man not “lying with a male as with a woman”, the text is quoted about as often as President Warren Harding’s Inaugural Address. Recently I attended an event at a nearby seminary where the topic of discussion was Leviticus 25:
Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan…Everyone is to return to their own property…The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers…If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. Leviticus 25:10, 13, 23-24, 35-36.
So, let’s see if I get this right. God’s command is that every fifty years there’s a total economic “do over”. And here are the tenets of God’s economic platform:
- No matter what happened in the previous 49 years, everyone gets back their historic family property. (Socialism?)
- Land is never permanently sold, because it really belongs to God and the entire community. (Communism?)
- If, for whatever reason, someone becomes poor, the nation is called on to support them. (Welfare state?)
- The poor are to be helped just as foreigners and strangers should be supported. (Immigrant rights?)
- Don’t take interest or profit from the poor so that they can prosper. (Not even sure what to call this other than a violation of every principle of the market economy.)
Anyone running for president on this platform wouldn’t stand a chance in hell (perhaps heaven?) of winning. Of course, outside of a few isolated attempts, these words were never taken literally. They were simply too revolutionary. So much for a nation based on Biblical principles.
What if, however, the spirit of these words challenged us to evolve our economics and our spirituality until we could not consider one without the other? What if the measure of our spirituality included not only personal salvation/enlightenment but also a shared responsibility for the wellbeing of all the inhabitants of our community: rich and poor, native and immigrant, human and other species? What if “we” became just as prominent as “me” when talking about economics and spirituality?
While a literal year of Jubilee is unlikely, we can catch the spirit of Jubilee and put our spiritual energy to use for the public good. A start is to educate ourselves about how “the public” is actually doing,
“The Human Development Report” provides census-driven data to analyze longevity, income and access to education, healthcare, and affordable housing. Reports have been generated for 161 countries, three states in the U.S. (Louisiana, Mississippi, and California) and for the first time ever, a local community: Marin County, California. We get a better understanding of how people are doing from a tool like this than we do from the distant rumblings of the stock market. To learn more, go to http://measureofamerica.org/
While I don’t expect that many of us will pick up Leviticus for a light summer read, I do believe that it is time for us to evolve our spirituality so that our individual Jubilee is not complete without including in our hearts and actions those for whom Jubilee is a distant dream.