Lies We Believe About Ourselves and Others
Day Two: The Economics of Safety
In ancient Israel, and in far and close corners of our world today, people toiled the land. For survival. In Israel, they worked hard for six years. They sowed the land and harvested its crops. They grew and made their workers rich; They spoiled and left their workers destitute. Israelites took debts and repaid them. They took what was theirs and honored their own work.
But on the seventh year, they were prohibited. They did not toil, or sow, or harvest. On the seventh year, what grew on its own could be enjoyed. Not just by those who worked, but also by those who didn’t. By the owners, the slaves, the servants, and the foreigners who came hungry intending to suckle on the teat of another’s work.
This was holy and demanded creation care. It was an early notion that the land was not something to be taken and milked for all it was worth. It was a resource, but a living one. The land was given a Sabbath of her own.
Something else happened too, each seventh year. Debts were cleared without payment. You had six years to rack up the debt. At the end of the seventh, you were given a chance to start over. People were given a brief reprieve from the clutches of poverty.
At the end of seven seven-year periods, the year (#50 for those of us bad at math) was declared a jubilee. Families of poverty who had mortgaged their land to alleviate their situation were told to come back and claim what belonged to them. Debts were absolved; The land was given a break. The rich could get richer, but only for 49 years. The poor could get poorer, but only for 49 years. Poverty and wealth had expiration dates.
Amass billions. Lose them. On the 50th year, we’ll be in the same place yet again. As siblings.
The Holy’s attitude of wealth manifested differently in the Coming of the Christ, but the heart remained the same. Born in a manure-filled barn to a carpenter, the Son of God made a political statement. He made an economic decree. When he came of age, he was a homeless couch surfer. Unemployed. His life was one of economic consequence.
Jesus’ greatest works would not have been possible without someone else’s resources. Jesus didn’t bring a few loaves of bread and fish to a hillside and then divide them to feed thousands. He asked if anyone had food to share and broke the food they spent their own money on. Jesus was a bit of a, I think the current term is welfare queen? He fed his followers with someone else’s food. In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus asserts a hypothetical situation, in which a group of righteous believers are allowed into heaven:
‘I was hungry. And you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty. And you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger. And you invited me in. I needed clothes. And you gave them to me. I was sick. And you took care of me. I was in prison. And you came to visit me.’ Then the people who have done what is right will answer. ‘Lord,’ they will ask, ‘when did we see you hungry and feed you? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in? When did we see you needing clothes and give them to you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘What I’m about to tell you is true. Anything you did for one of the least important of these siblings of mine, you did for me.’Matthew 25:35-40 NIRV, adapted
Would the world today look different if every seven years we sought a leveling? What if we lifted families out of generational poverty every fifty years? If, every day, we gave up our own bread with the belief that a homeless beggar could be the very face of God and feed us until we were full and beyond? If we as a Kingdom Come declared with our bodies, our minds, and our hearts that there would never again be a son without a home, a daughter without a dinner, a child without a dollar to their name?
Make no mistake: The story of God is a story about economics. Your tasks as gospel-givers speak into economics. To really dig into the heart of God, to speak light into the world, we must first give up our idol of safety. The Hands can make a feast out of a few fishes and loaves, but first we have to come hungry. The land can supply us all we need, but first we have to live off what’s left.
You may die. You may go hungry.
You may see the face of God.
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