Friday, December 9, 2005

The Bible, Wealth and Poverty, Part Deux

So let's jump back to the OT for a minute: What are the Jubilee Laws?

The Jubilee Laws are found in Leviticus initially. They were a means of transferring land back to original owners every 50 years, of freeing indentured slaves every seven years, and of providing food for the poor, among other things. It was also a way of reminding the Israelis that, according to God, The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants.”

The Jubilee Laws were a way of keeping wealth and power from accumulating in the hands of a few and ensuring “enough” for everyone.

While it is not always obvious, once you know to look for it, you can see references to Jubilee sprinkled liberally throughout the Bible. As are words giving voice to God's concern for economic justice in general. As are God's words of warning and condemnation towards the rich.

Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!

Isaiah 5

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Isaiah 58

As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great and waxen rich....they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?

Jeremiah 5

He that oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker.

Proverbs 14

For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals – They who trample the head of the poor into the dust of earth, and push the afflicted out of the way.

Amos 2

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days.

James 5

Oh! And the “Sin of Sodom?” Well, we all know what that was, don't we? God spells it out for us in Ezekiel 16:

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.

I could go on and on with biblical references, but I'll stop here. You get the drift. I'm telling you, it is quite surprising (at least for some of us brought up in churches where we learned the “Big Sins” were drinking, smoking, sex and cussing), to discover how omnipresent God's teachings on wealth and poverty are within the Bible. Front to back.

It is for this reason that I speak about economic issues so frequently in these sorts of conversations. I think the church has it largely wrong. We're focusing on minor issues and are often on the wrong side of God's teachings in the Bible.

Like Young Josiah, I'd like to see the Book of the Law to be rediscovered and reclaimed for what it actually says.



Sylvia said...

Way to go Dan!

Son of Lilith said...

Of course there is always the whole "easier to walk through the eye of the needle than the gates of heaven" thing.

The Big Sins? Let's see...there's smoking, drinking, sex and cussing but don't forget dancing and holding hands.

I'm serious.

Hell, I get sideways glances when I cut up at church social events, as if since I'm out of college and what-not I should shove a stick up my ass STAT!