And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.
Jubilee is an ancient idea. The Bible sets out how it originated as a way of ensuring a just society where no one was trapped in poverty or bondage because of the debts or obligations they accrued. According to Jubilee, on a regular basis land was to be returned to people, resources shared, slaves freed, land rested, debts forgiven. Jubilee offered a way of life for God’s people, founded in liberation.
As Christians, we see Jubilee as being about more than just economics. The Jubilee year allowed relationships to be reset, communities to be re-balanced, and people’s dignity to be restored. It was a way of enabling the injustices and fractures in society to be repaired, so that all of God’s people could flourish. The Jubilee principle embodies the fairness, well-being and freedom that God desires for all people.
Today Jubilee offers more than a technical solution to the household debt problem created by the lockdown. Covid-19 has shown us that we are all far more reliant on each other than we had previously acknowledged. Yet, without a debt Jubilee, those who are least able to bear it will continue to carry the heaviest financial burden as we move forward.
Jubilee offers a vision of what a flourishing community might look like. A community where people are not trapped in endless spirals of debt. Where children’s mental health is not damaged through fear of eviction. Where everyone has a safe place to call home. Where the rich and poor do not spiral away from each other in increasing inequality. Where fairness is restored.
Jubilee alone will not create such a society, however it would be a powerful and practical start to the process. It offers a picture of a just and compassionate community that recognises the needs of the most disadvantaged in society and prioritises them.
“If the debt was taken away, it would be a 180-degree transformation. I would be able to live and not just exist. I could start a family. I could look forward and not be stuck in the past and in fear”