Good morning. This is working theology.
I hope you were able to rest from your labors over the weekend.
As I catch up on the news cycle this morning, I’m noticing that wealth inequality is a popular topic in many financial publications. Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio, for example, believes wealth inequality is our biggest economic, social, and political problem facing our nation today. He points out that the bottom 90% of wealth holders in the US hold nearly the same wealth as the top 0.1%. This leads to the rise of populism, social unrest, and ultimately war.
In the Old Testament, God established something called a “Jubilee year” to alleviate wealth inequality in his ancient economy. There were other laws that helped the people of God remain on equal footing, but they all led up to this feast year.
The Lord gave Israel an astonishing array of economic legislation designed to protect poor widows, visiting immigrants, orphans, and just plain poor folk. Sabbath days created rest for workers, Sabbath years provided release for people in debt slavery, gleaning laws created opportunities for work for the unemployed, tithes provided for the needy and more. . . . For now, notice that the Lord constantly put constraints on what the well-off were allowed to do at work and with their stuff to protect the prospects of the marginalized.
All this culminated in the famous Year of Jubilee in Leviticus 25, when control of the family farm returned to those families who had been forced to sell it or otherwise lost control of it. Each provision in Leviticus 25 was designed to preserve an economy in which households and families were never permanently alienated from God’s promised land. Such an economy required families and neighbors to be ready to sacrifice in a variety of ways depending on their struggling neighbor’s situation.†
To be clear, I am a card-carrying capitalist, and my political convictions tend toward the conservative side. Capitalism powers economic, social, and spiritual well-being. However, when I think about how God used his legislation to establish an economic system that cared for the poor in such a way, I wonder what the American system could learn from such legislative authority.
Thanks for reading.
† Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt, Practicing the King’s Economy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2018), 90.