We Need Jubilee


We must remember and care for our fellow travelers on this beautiful planet and treat them not as competitors, but as if they were Jesus who said that he could be found among the little ones. Proclaiming with Jesus the year of Jubilee is our only hope for restoration.

“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 NRSV

This is the text that Jesus used for his first sermon in Luke’s gospel. It is a quote from Jesus’ favorite prophet, Isaiah, chapter 61. It is calling for the year of Jubilee, the 50th year … the year when all debt is to be forgiven and people who have lost their property, or have even sold themselves, are to be set free with all debt forgiven. It is a command of God, and it is called for by Jesus in word and deed.

It has been said that the nations of Israel and Judah never celebrated the year of Jubilee, but since we have such a limited account of their history we cannot say for sure. Many folk think this celebration would be a bad idea since banks would have a sudden credit freeze every 49th year because they would have to forgive all loans made and give back all property seized in foreclosure. However, Jubilee needs to be proclaimed today because it is the only hope we have of getting out of this terrible world economy. We need grace, totally undeserved, as the Jubilee demands.

If we get what we deserve, we will surely enter a long and hard depression. Grace has been offered to banks that deserve to be closed because they have run an industry that demands great care in handling the finances of our nation like a drunken sailor. The car companies have wasted great wealth on foolishness and now promise to be wise if they can get grace undeserved.

Congress and the administration that is charged with looking after the country’s wealth have allowed our national debt to reach $11 trillion—an amount no one can comprehend. They may lecture the car companies, but their sin is at least as great. They need grace, for they have burdened our children with paying for their foolishness.

We all believed we could have everything without sacrifice; we listened to empty political promises of lower taxes while our infrastructure is falling apart and debt threatens our ability to react to crises economic and otherwise. We all need the grace we don’t deserve because we were too foolish to pay proper attention to the duties of living in a democracy.

We as a nation believed we could put our personal finance on credit cards and that maybe the value of our houses would pay it off in the end. Drunken sailors all. Contriteness will not save us—only grace. We need the year of Jubilee in the worst way.

The cure for our broken world is radical grace. It is called for, even outside the religious community, by Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner for economics: “We are … well into the realm of what I call depression economics. By that I mean a state of affairs like that of the 1930s in which the usual tools of economic policy—above all, the Federal Reserve’s ability to pump up the economy by cutting interest rates—have lost all traction. When depression economics prevails, the usual rules of economic policy no longer apply: virtue becomes vice, caution is risky and prudence is folly.”

The car companies must be given funds, the banks must be refinanced, insurances companies must not be allowed to fail, we must have national health care (for doctors and General Motors need it as badly as the middle class). People must be given grace on their loans, and people’s electric bills must be forgiven—not because they deserve it, but because we are all in the boat together.

Most of us have bowed to the god of greed, and now that it has proven itself once again false, we must treat it radically with the tool that Jesus demonstrated and taught.

A lesson our nation must learn is that we are a part of each other, and to seek punishment for our brother or sister for their folly is to punish ourselves. Grace knows what James Dunn spoke of in For Whom the Bells Tolls: "Send not to know, for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

We must remember and care for our fellow travelers on this beautiful planet and treat them not as competitors, but as if they were Jesus who said that he could be found among the little ones. Proclaiming with Jesus the year of Jubilee is our only hope for restoration.

Larry Wilson is pastor of First Baptist Church in Biscoe, N.C.

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Tags: Debt, Economy, Forgiveness, Jubilee, Larry Wilson


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