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Jubilee’s Roots:
Rediscovering the Bible’s Voice on Economics

Money-talk in the Bible is NOT just about charity. It’s even more about economics structures—why some economic structures serve all people and species, while others work to accumulate wealth and power for a few. Or why some build Earth Community and others build empires.

Many people who have had wide exposure to the Bible, who study it, and who have heard lots of preaching and teaching from it, have not been asked to read the Bible with economic eyes. Not in Sunday School; not in faith-based colleges; not in seminaries. Turn to the bible for spiritual guidance? Sure! But for guidance in economic models, practices, and structures? Rare. For economic analysis and guidance, people turns to financial advisors, The Wall Street Journal, bankers, and a host of other sources.

Not so with jubilee economics. Here, on this website, we hold economics and spirituality together in a single whole. The Bible is not only for spirituality and ethics. It also presents an economic model; it shows why imperial economic structures fail; and it regards economic choices as spiritual choices. So, in advocating for a jubilee economy, we read the Bible economically because that’s the way it was written.

The Bible Opposes Empire Economics and Urges Us to Live an Alternative

If you haven’t already done so, look again at how the Bible speaks to an economic reality of justice and injustice, wealth and poverty, power and marginalization. Note also how the Bible’s overarching story opposes empires and their way of arranging economies to favor power, to concentrate wealth, and thereby to construct social and economic hierarchies. Over centuries the collection of writings in the Bible dissented from the economic models of a succession of empires in the Middle East: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. In addition, Israel’s own experience with empire in the era of their monarchs, David and Solomon, soon became a failed experiment.

Fast forward to Jesus and see how he not only spoke in vigorous opposition to the economic oppressions of Rome’s imperial domination, he rejected popular appeals to live his life as a new David or Solomon. Instead, he lived a messianic consciousness that rejected empire as a model. He taught this consciousness as essential to living in God’s “kingdom.” This conversion of consciousness gave people a far greater capacity to share and cooperate—both essentials in living the economic model he called the “kingdom of God.” That “kingdom” emphasized the commons more than privatized land, commonwealth more than private assets, and living in the abundance of Creation’s limits more than empire’s excesses. This “kingdom” took the jubilee economy that was part of his Jewish heritage and reinvented it for startling relevance as an alternative to the domination and empire economics of Rome.

Jubilee:  An Economic Model and Practice that Fits This Ecological-Economic Moment

Now again, in the 21st century, the economic model of jubilee is a better fit for Earth than the imperial, top-down models used and promoted by the countries, corporations, and militaries of the largest economies. Both the ecological limits and the failures of empire economics that we are now experiencing give reasons enough to dig into the biblical model of economics. The biblical jubilee model and spirituality awaits, not only our rediscovery, but its implementation as economic and spiritual practice. Economic conversion to jubilee is also a spiritual conversion that is right for all of us and for all faiths in this moment on Earth.

Conversely, to “de-economize” the Bible is a widely committed transgression in Bible studies, teachings, and homilies, dulling the very edge that cuts through our most destructive economic habits and models; leaving us without the Bible’s economic wisdom.

Juan Stam, a biblical teacher in Latin America where people have been oppressed by non-economic readings of the Bible, says that we need an eraser, magnifying glass, and earphones in order to open to more of the Bible’s economic model of jubilee. The eraser is to rub out conventional readings that prevent fresh readings from happening. This is the work of deconstructing our previous conclusions and assumptions about the Bible and its meanings. The magnifying glass is to see more clearly its meanings in its original time and culture. The earphones are for us to listen carefully to various readings, discerning what resonates deep within us, how the divine Spirit sings into our understanding, imaginations, and emotions the lyrics of these ancient authors and their creative work.

Welcome, then, to the voices of the Jubilee Economics Ministries who read the Bible economically.

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