Dave Ramsey, American financial advisor famous for his strategies for eliminating debt, saving for the future, and generous giving, hosts a live show, The Total Money Makeover LIVE!. The show promises “the most fun you will ever have talking about money.” Today’s passage also connects joy and finances in the description of the freedom in the Year of Jubilee.
God made the seventh day of creation holy, setting it aside for rest (Gen. 2:2). He provided a weekly sabbath for His people (Ex. 20:8–11). God also ordained a year of sabbath rest for the land, every seventh year (Lev. 25:1–7). Today’s reading explains that the 50th year was to be a Year of Jubilee when freedom was granted to land and people in extraordinary ways (vv. 8–10).
First, land was returned to the original owner according to Moses’ land distribution (vv. 10, 13). Two theological motivations underlie the redistribution of land: The Lord owned the land, Israel only stewarded it (v. 23). And Israel’s covenant relationship with God transformed how they related to one another: they “do not take advantage of one another” (vv. 14–17).
Second, in Jubilee the land remained fallow for the year. God’s people had to trust Him for provision (vv. 11–12, 20–22). Third, Hebrew servants were released from indebted labor, which implied cancellation of their debts (vv. 39–55). The people were reminded that they had been redeemed from harsh slavery. God is compassionate, and they belonged to God, not other humans (vv. 42–43, 55).
Notice the phrase, “if one of your countrymen becomes poor,” appears three times (vv. 25, 35, 39). God outlined provisions for those stricken with poverty so that they will be cared for and not mistreated and then finally restored at the time of Jubilee. The backdrop of the Year of Jubilee is God as sovereign, merciful Creator and Redeemer. Jubilee was to be a foretaste of future life in God’s kingdom where there is no poverty or debt, and where our relationships with others and with God’s creation are reconciled.