Week of Proper 12: Saturday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Shofar with “To a Good Year,” by Alphonse Levy (Lived 1843-1918)

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Economy Is Not Ours

AUGUST 5, 2023


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Leviticus 25:1, 8-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH spoke to Moses in Mount Sinai, saying,…

And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years:  seven years, seven times.  And the days of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be for you forty-nine years.  And you shall pass a blasting horn in the seventh month on the tenth of the month; on the Day of Atonement you shall have the horn pass through all your land.  And you shall consecrate the year that makes fifty years and proclaim liberty in the land, to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you.  And you shall go back, each to his possession; and you shall go back, each to his family.  It, the year that makes fifty years, shall be a jubilee for you.  You shall not seed, you shall not harvest its free growths, and you shall not cut of its untrimmed fruits, because it is a jubilee; it shall be a holy thing to you.  You shall eat its produce from the field.  In this jubilee year you shall go back, each to his possession.  And when you will make a sale to your fellow or buy from your fellow’s hand:  each of you, do not persecute his brother.  You shall buy from your fellow by the number of years from the jubilee.  He shall sell to you by the number of years of yields–corresponding to a greater amount of the years, you shall make its price greater; and corresponding to a smaller amount of the years, you shall make its price smaller–because it is a number of yields that he is selling to you.  And you shall not persecute–each of you–his brother, but you shall fear your God, because I am YHWH,  your God.

Psalm 67 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

Matthew 14:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

About this time Herod, governor of the province, heard the reports about Jesus and said to his men,

This must be John the Baptist:  he has risen from the dead.  That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.

For previously Herod had arrested John and had him bound and put in prison, all on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.  For John had said to him,

It is not right for you to have this woman.

Herod wanted to kill him for this, but he was afraid of the people, since they all thought John was a prophet.  But during Herod’s birthday celebrations Herodias’ daughter delighted him by dancing before his guests, so much that he swore to give her anything she liked to ask.  And she, prompted by her mother, said,

I want you to give me, here and now, on a dish, the head of John the Baptist!

Herod was appalled at this, but because he had sworn in front of his guests, he gave orders that she should be given what she had asked.  So he sent men and had John beheaded in the prison.  Then his head was carried in on a dish and presented to the young girl who handed it to her mother.  Later, John’s disciples came, took his body and buried it.  Then they went and told the news to Jesus.  When he heard it he went away by boat to a deserted place, quite alone.


The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Israelites had escaped from Egypt, where the economy was one of artificial scarcity for many and plenty for few.  This economic reality sounds contemporary, does it not?  There is enough wealth, in various forms, for everyone to have a sufficient amount; lack of equitable distribution is the problem.

So, in Leviticus 25, we have a divine order to observe the Year of the Jubilee every fiftieth year.  Slaves were to become free people, and people were to recover their lost property, especially land.  This was supposed to be a corrective to the inequitable distribution of wealth which had developed over the previous forty-nine years.  Unfortunately, if the Israelites ever obeyed these laws, there is no record of it in the Bible.  One may assume safely, given the Scriptural narrative of idolatry and economic exploitation, that they did not.

Much of the Religious Right in North America is in love with the worst, most exploitative variety of capitalism.  Even the Progressive Era of the early Twentieth Century comes in for criticism–for doing too much.  What part of inspecting food and drugs, busting trusts, setting aside national parks and reserves, granting women the right to vote, and attempting to outlaw child labor is excessive?  The Progressive Era, rather, was too timid; there should have been a Judeo-Christian Socialist revolution, inspired by the Year of the Jubilee.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.,  was a strong and prophetic social critic.  Unfortunately, the MLK of the King holiday is not the MLK of history.  The MLK of history was a much more complicated man than the one reactionaries like to honor.  Consider these words from “A Time to Break Silence,” the April 4, 1967, speech in which Dr. King condemned the Vietnam War:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

This is the best contrast between human and divine economies I have read.



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