‘You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.’— John Bunyan
I’d say that’s a pretty good philosophy for Christians trying to live out the spirit of God’s Jubilee here and now. Leviticus 25 introduces the concept of Jubilee as a sabbath among sabbaths every 50 years, after a period of seven times seven years. Here are five things Jubilee teaches about God’s character, and what the principle has to teach us.
1. God Wants Us To Rest In Him
After the three years we’ve just had, I doubt that any of us need convincing that rest is good. It’s been exhausting dealing with the COVID years, along with seemingly endless ‘pivots’. And none of us can excel without rest.
During the Jubilee period, God calls his people to stop sowing and reaping, and instead rest in him, trusting that he will provide. Implicit in this is a call to make room for others to rest too. How can you make room for rest?
2. There Is Dignity In A Livelihood
Leviticus 25 depicts Jubilee as not just a one-in-fifty-year-event, but a change in the way land is regarded because property is a livelihood generously provided by the Lord.
On this basis, Jubilee includes the requirement that land—and the livelihood it provides—be returned to the original owner, whether or not they can afford to buy it back. Best practice humanitarian work empowers and equips people to gain a livelihood rather than depend on external providers—because earning a living provides more than just income. Our local Christian Partners uphold the dignity and agency of participants in vulnerable circumstances. What can you do to uphold the dignity of vulnerable people in your community?
3. The Gospel Is Multi-dimensional
In Isaiah 61 we read about the one who will proclaim the year of Jubilee, bringing good news to the poor; healing for the brokenhearted; freedom for captives; and release from darkness for prisoners. When Jesus applied this to himself in Luke 4, he foreshadowed the spiritual healing he would bring through his death and resurrection.
Every human is born with the need for spiritual healing through Jesus. But we also see God’s heart for those who suffer. When Jesus told his Jewish audience that this also applies to Gentiles, he was run out of town! Today, telling others about Jesus, doing good, sharing wealth, giving sacrificially, and seeking justice are all part of living as disciples of Jesus and practicing Jubilee in our modern context. How might you mindfully include these activities in your worship of Jesus this year?
4. Following Jesus Means Adopting An Attitude Of Service
When we read passages like the ones referenced above, we can’t wriggle away from God’s call for us to become servants of all in his upside-down (last-shall-be-first) kingdom. The more we have, the more we should share, and caring for the most vulnerable among us becomes a matter of both obedience and Christian ethics. Do you have time, resources or skills that you could offer in service of building God’s kingdom this year?
5. God Desires An End To Injustice
Isaiah 61 paints a beautiful picture of God’s heart. The passage is rich with visual language exploring the exchange of poverty and mourning with plenty and joy. God has no desire to see people made in his image struggle with poverty and injustice. When Jesus came and asserted that he is the good shepherd, he said:
‘I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.’ (John 10:10).
The principle of Jubilee points to fullness of life for all. What does a full life mean to you? Could your life be enriched by blessing others?
In his kindness, God invites us to partner with him in his work. Telling people about Jesus, taking and giving time for rest, reflecting his goodness in our actions, and supporting others in their good work are all in the spirit of Jubilee. A full and rich life, as God wants for us, means living a generous life.