The Hebrews were instructed to observe a Sabbath year every seven years and a Jubilee year every 50. The fields were not to be worked, slaves were to be freed, debts forgiven, land returned to rightful owners, and life was to be completely in God’s hands.
Even a simpleton such as I can see how complicated those instructions are.
When does one begin counting for the Jubilee year? Who were the rightful owners of the land? Debtors would welcome the Jubilee year; creditors would loathe it.
There is little evidence the Jubilee year or even the Sabbath year was practiced. Still, Jubilee rules are worthy of consideration:
1. God’s instructions for our living are not required to be simple. Even when they are simple, we make them difficult, e.g., the Ten Commandments.
2. With regard to freeing slaves, surely Christians can understand we have no right to own another person. That universal truth makes me wonder why our country needed a war to enforce it.
3. Then there is the matter of rightful land ownership. Many wars revolved around who owned the land. Humankind seems unable to grasp the land does not belong to us (Leviticus 25:23). It belongs to God; “This is my Father’s world.” Returning the land to its rightful owners is a continuing dilemma for America.
4. Forgiving/canceling debt has many spiritual implications. Indebtedness puts the rich in charge of the poor, a situation the Bible clearly condemns. Such an arrangement can become as burdensome as slavery.
Indebtedness brings serious consequences to individuals and institutions. America has become a buy-now/pay-later society. I’m told a large portion of our society owes more than they will ever be able to pay. Such an arrangement takes its toll on family life. When there is no margin in the budget for simple family pleasures or for the unexpected, the family suffers.
What is true of families is equally true of church families. When a church is overburdened with debt, it is robbed of many opportunities to serve and minister. I certainly am not a financier; but apparently God thought indebtedness important enough to include it in the Jubilee instructions.
Perhaps you are thinking, “It’s an Old Testament rule; times have changed; it’s complicated and impractical.” But whatever one says, surely the cancellation of a debt, either by payment or forgiveness, is reason for jubilation.