Today’s reading: Leviticus 22-27, Ps 16-17
Previously in the book of Leviticus, we have seen hints that the Israelites would be expected to treat the poor and oppressed with compassion and justice. Today, we are introduced to the radical notion of jubilee. Every fifty years, all slaves would be set free. Every fifty years, all debts would be erased. Every fifty years, all who had been forced to give up land as payment for a debt would get it back again.
Here we see a plan being laid that will keep families from accumulating or hoarding more than they need over multiple generations. A system that incorporates jubilee prevents perpetual greed. With each generation, it creates the possibility of a fresh start.
The Israelites were the perfect community to inaugurate such a system. They knew firsthand the bonds of slavery, having suffered under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh for hundreds of years in Egypt. Now, even before they have entered the land they will call home, they are being prepared for how to treat one another and their stuff. It is no surprise that they are reminded numerous times that “I am the God. . .who brought you out of Egypt.” This reminder keeps them from thinking they did it on their own. With hearts of gratitude for what has been done for them, they can gladly share with one another.
Whenever we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we ask for God’s proclamation of jubilee on our lives: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” What would it look like for us to take seriously the notion of jubilee in the world today?