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Sep 06, 2006


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I enjoyed your articles on the Jubilee, but you did not really explain how they can be applied in the modern world. I agree with you that Jubilee was not cancellation of debt as is often suggested.

In a situation, where land was the main form of capital, I am intrigued that captial was distributed equally at the beginning, and that that equality was aproximately restored again every fifty years. This is an interesting example of equal opportunity, though a voluntary one I think.

The strange thing was that this redistribution only applied in rural areas. It did not apply to walled villages. This would seem to rule out equal distribution of more modern types of capital, which tend to be city based.

So do you have any thoughts on how the Jubilee should apply in the modern world.


Your explaination of profit on Jesus Creed was excellent.

Michael Kruse

Hi Ron,

Thanks for the kind words about my profit ramblings. :) I think I may turn the comment into a post here at my blog.

As to the Jubilee Code, you are right about my vagueness. Clearly the code could not be applied directly today. Rather than looking to the code for explicit policy I have tended to ask what ethic the code embodies. There are multiple layers to this. At one level it prevented the permanent loss of one’s land and labor. It capped the level of indebtedness both in quantity and length of time. As you noted it says nothing about land within city walls or about the wealth one may have amassed through the use of someone else’s land and labor. Among other things I take this as a desire for each member of the community to have ownership and share in the productive work of the community. At another level I think there is a spiritual component. The reallocation of the land to its original owners would remind people of God’s covenant and of the might works of God in bringing the people into the Promised Land. I hesitate to go much beyond these kind of observations for fear of “reading into” the passage things that are not there.

What are you thoughts? Do you have thoughts about how this might apply today?


Like you, I am not sure how the Jubilee should apply to the modern world. However, every time I read the Jubilee passages, I get the sense that I am missing something really important. I plan to keep seeking to I find it.

The jubilee is a marvelous principle. It means that every second generation, got access to some capital to use for their economic development. They get another chance, no matter what their predecessors have done.

The jubilee tells us something about human nature. The assumption is that if the Father “loses the plot”, his son will think the same way. The land comes back to the third generation with the hope that foolish thinking has been broken by the season of poverty.

Another implication is that when helping the poor, it is not enough to be given aid. Poor people need access to capital. This theme has be been developed by Herman De Soto.

Perhaps in countries with oil or mineral wealth, instead of this being owned by the government, every citizen could be given an equal share in the company owning the resources. People could use this equity as security to get started in business. These shares could not be sold permanently, but only leased for fifty years.

One of weakness of free-market capitalism is that the successful people accumulate capital, while the rest do not. The children of the successful get a head start over the children who have no capital. This inequality can often create envy. Even Christians look at this inequality of opportunity and say it is unfair (though it is hard to fault parents helping their children). The jubilee, if it could be made to work in some way, would roll back this inequality and give everyone and equal opportunity start.

I do not see the jubilee laws as justifying enforced redistribution by the state. Maybe we need to develop a voluntary process for making the jubilee process work. Maybe Christians who have been successful in business an accumulated a lot of capital could look for young people with potential and provide them with capital to get started in business. This might be a combination of gleaning and jubilee.

I am interested that as Bill Gates has reached his jubilee, he has lost interest in trying to get Windows to work, and is more interested in helping the poor. Maybe, when an entrepreneur gets to a certain stage in life, they might become more interested in providing capital to third generation people who need a leg up.

Michael Kruse

Great observations Ron! I hadn't thought about Bill Gates it terms of reaching his jubilee.

"Another implication is that when helping the poor, it is not enough to be given aid. Poor people need access to capital. This theme has be been developed by Herman De Soto."

Amen! And to have the capital they already have legally recognized as their own.

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