I was preaching about Jubilee on Sunday, using Leviticus 25 as a basis. In the return of the land, the release of bonded labourers and the cancellation of debts every 50 years, there is essentially no buying or selling of capital in God’s economy. All capital resources and all people belong to God, and God’s not selling. So there can be no long-term acquisition of the means of becoming wealthy, and no ever-growing gap between rich and poor. (The exception in Leviticus 25 is houses in walled cities that haven’t been redeemed by a relative within a year.)
Combine this capital-free economics with the rhythm of resting the land every seven years (and the Jubilee’s a two-year rest), and so much trust in God is demanded, that it’s not very surprising that the Jubilee was (as far as we know) never practised. It’s completely ridiculous and could never work in the real world.
So here we are in the real world. It’s everyone for themselves and some grow richer at the expense of those who grow poorer. The rich gather to themselves the means of growing richer and keep gathering them for ever. Capital is bought and traded by people with no interest in the actual business other than that of making money. Money is lent at interest in order for the lender to grow richer; those who borrow easily end up trapped in a spiral of increasing debt. Land, animals, plants and human labour are all resources with a cash value – commodities that can be bought and sold, with tradable value also derived from what might be produced in the future. We can’t even cope with one day each week when we can’t work or shop. For some reason that I can’t quite grasp, I am expected to believe that all this is not ridiculous.
Well, I suppose it’s the result of 1700 years of Christianity being the dominant world-view in Europe and the european-ised world. After all, it would be ridiculous to trust God so much as to be set free from our fear of not surviving and the resulting addiction to acquiring stuff. When Jesus said his ministry was going to be about release of the oppressed, freedom for the captives and good news to the poor, it’s obvious he wasn’t expecting us to take him literally. Such radical trust in God could never work in the real world.
I realise that I am ranting. What interests me is if, given the failure of capitalism (surely that’s getting harder to argue against?), there is something to be said for trusting God and looking for ways of implementing ideas like Jubilee and Sabbath in the real world. How would we put into practise ideas like the land belonging to God; looking after each other in order to help rather than to make money; respecting the land and nature and refusing to commodify it (or people); restoring some rhythm to life and changing the 24/7 culture into something nearer an 8/6 one?
I wonder if anyone else has any thoughts about this (or about my ‘Resurrecting Economics‘ page) …