Americans are searching for answers to the economic crisis characterized as the worst since the Great Depression.
But, as so often happens, we are looking in all the wrong places.
I know it’s not fashionable to suggest the Bible as a source of wisdom on matters of contemporary concern. Ask me if I care.
While others are turning to their favorite economists for answers, I’ve been turning to the one and only inerrant book inspired by the sovereign Creator of the universe. I think everyone else is crazy for not looking there.
So what does the Bible say about our current economic morass?
For one thing, it explains how to avoid such catastrophes – and, I believe, how to fix this one.
First of all, you’ve got to understand the fundamental problem we have is one of gargantuan debt. That’s the central problem in the mortgage scandal. It’s the reason banks and investment houses are going out of business. It’s the reason the stock market is failing. And it’s the reason so many Americans, burdened by excessive credit-card debt, are hurting.
The Bible has much to say about debt. It has a radical solution for it, too. Though, I confess, I doubt many will be willing to listen – since our society moves further from the principles of the Bible on a daily basis.
But, for what it’s worth, I’m going to offer it as my own prescription for the economic crisis that is now affecting the entire world. I know how America can reclaim its position as a shining city on a hill in that world right now in addressing its own financial problems – not just with a bailout Band-Aid, but with a permanent and lasting solution that is just, fair and compassionate.
The answer is found in Leviticus 25. It’s called the year of jubilee. It is a system of forgiveness of debts that occurred in ancient Israel every 50 years. And, ironically, it just so happens a new year of jubilee began last week on Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement – the highest holy day in the Hebrew calendar.
Whether or not George Bush or John McCain or Barack Obama or Ben Bernanke could see our current crisis coming, God clearly could. He understood thousands of years ago that debt would ultimately spiral out of hand if left unchecked. So, along with many other important economic lessons we have forgotten, He gave us a prescription that would protect people from the kind of pain they are feeling today, from the kind of injustice our government is sticking us with today, from the kind of oppression all but the very wealthiest are experiencing today.
The jubilee year was part of the Sabbath system – something few Christians even understand today, despite the fact that honoring the Sabbath is still part of the Ten Commandments. The last day of the week, not the first, was to be kept holy, set apart from servile work, maintained as the Lord’s day. Likewise, every seventh year was to be kept as a sabbatical for the land. No crops were to be grown, no orchards planted. Storehouses were to be maintained for grain and dried fruits and vegetables during the six non-sabbatical years for the seventh, eighth and even ninth years when the pattern of sowing and reaping would begin again.
Then there was yet another Sabbath. After seven cycles of sabbatical years – a total of 49 years – the 50th year was special in another way. The Hebrew year 5769, which commenced last Thursday, is one of these special jubilee years.
So what should happen according to God’s prescription?
It’s simple. But, as I said, it’s radical. You will be told there are thousands of reasons we could never accept such a solution. And that’s why we will continue to put Band-Aids on the patient who is rapidly bleeding to death.
In a year of jubilee, you declare all debts forgiven. Period. End of story. It was not only a year to set captives free and to end the bondage and oppression of men, it was also a time to cancel all debts.
I can think of no better solution for America today.
It would be better than a tax cut. It would be better than another “stimulus package.” It would be better than the bailout. It would be better than any other government-directed wealth-redistribution program on the table or off.