What Christians Should Know about the Year of Jubilee
- Hope Bolinger Author
- 2021 1 Mar
Every 50 years, my debts get forgiven? Sign me up.
Not every Christian may be on board with the idea behind The Year of Jubilee. Recent debates about student loan debt being forgiven have left some Christians wondering if they can apply this concept to current issues. However, these debates prove we should understand this Old Testament practice.
Although this practice is still not in place in Israel today, it can give us insight into God’s character, mercy, and thoughts on freedom.
Let’s dive into The Year of Jubilee and what it could mean for Christians today.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Alessandro Biascioli
What Is the Year of Jubilee?
In an article about The Year of Jubilee, it’s probably important to first define it.
For that, let’s go to Scripture.
A Year of Rest
“You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.” (Leviticus 25:11-12)
In other words, every 50 years, the Israelites would have a year of rest. This makes sense. God would have them rest on the Sabbath once a week. There were also holidays appointed for rest every season and during certain months. Logical progression dictates that God would also have a longer period of rest. Say, a year.
Slaves Are Freed
Also, during Jubilee, slaves would be freed (Leviticus 25:10).
We must remember that slavery was a slightly different institution in Israelite times than in our modern-day lens. Yes, Israelites would keep captives of war, which would fall under a different category of slavery. But the slavery referred to in this passage was a slave who owed his master money (i.e., an indentured servant).
During the year of Jubilee, bondservants would be freed from their debts and able to return to their own homes, free men.
Debts Are Forgiven
And this wouldn’t just happen in the year of Jubilee (although the parameters for debt forgiveness are laid out in Leviticus 25). This would actually happen every seven years (see Deuteronomy 15:1-2).
This may seem like something way outside of our modern sensibilities. Even some articles go as far as to argue that it’s a myth that the Year of Jubilee would involve debt forgiveness. But I’d like to argue in the next section why this makes sense within God’s character.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Lionello Delpiccolo
Why Was the Year of Jubilee Important to God?
The Year of Jubilee makes total sense within the character God displays for us. Let’s examine three reasons why.
God Loves Rest
It would make sense for God to institute a year of rest. He establishes a weekly sabbath because he doesn’t want us to rely on our own work to sustain us fully. He asks us to trust him to provide when we cannot provide for ourselves.
It can be difficult for many of us—before retirement—to imagine giving up a whole year to the Lord and living off the fruit of our labors for the past 49 years. But we do practice this in some ways. Professors and pastors may sometimes go on sabbaticals, where for months, or even a full year, they rest and rejuvenate their souls.
A Year of Jubilee tells us that we are not machines but created to enjoy creation and God.
God Hates Bondage
If you haven’t had a chance to read the article linked to what the Bible says about slavery above, I highly recommend doing so.
Although God allowed the Israelites to have bondservants—as it was a cultural practice at the time—throughout Scripture, it’s evident that God does not approve of anything that holds humans in bondage.
Entire books have been written on the subject, so I can’t imagine even being able to scratch the surface in this article. However, the fact Christ frees us from our sin does show us that he doesn’t want anything to hold us fast or hinder us.
It would make sense for God to institute a Year of Jubilee to free the slaves who owed their masters. Speaking of…
God Frees Us from Debts
If you find yourself naturally reacting against the idea of freeing people from their debts (especially if you would be getting the money back), consider checking out the passage of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35.
It’s a harrowing parable to read but effective in what it tries to communicate. God has forgiven us of enormous debts, so how can we not forgive those with far smaller ones?
Granted, the Bible speaks against spending money frivolously to the point where we end up destitute. Proverbs has quite a bit to say about it. Some passages about not accumulating debt include Psalm 37:21, Proverbs 22:7, and Romans 13:7.
But also, a year in which debts are forgiven perfectly aligns with God’s character. He calls us not to depend on our own finances—or the finances we lord above others—and instead to forgive as he forgives.
How Can Christians Implement Their Own Year of Jubilee?
Although some Roman Catholic traditions do celebrate a Year of Jubilee of sorts, we don’t really see this instituted anymore—at least, not to the degree seen in the Old Testament. It gets a little fuzzy past Israel’s exile in Babylon—as most things do during the four hundred years of silence between the return from exile and Jesus’ birth.
With that said, Christians can find their own ways to implement a Jubilee here and now. And the good news is, we don’t have to wait 50 years. I’ll suggest a few ways to get one implemented, but I highly suggest coming up with your own creative ideas—after prayerful thought.
Forgiving of Debts
And I’m not talking just about financial debts. Although that could be a great start if someone owes you 50 dollars, to tell them, “Hey, don’t worry about it. If Jesus can forgive me, so can I forgive you.”
Debts get muddy in our own culture. So this can differ from person to person.
But I’m also speaking to spiritual debts. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can probably think of one or two people who served as a testing rather than a blessing. During our Jubilee, we can forgive those people, even if they haven’t apologized.
Unlike the unforgiving servant, we’ll reflect Jesus in this way.
Not all of us can take a full year off. Many of us have two-income households and maybe work side gigs on top of those incomes to pay off electric bills and groceries.
And for those of us who are in retirement, this may not seem like something you can implement now.
But I would like to look at the idea of rest in general. Is there an hour you can set aside and sit and be with God? Maybe a day when you don’t open up your emails? Maybe, even if you’re retired, a time set apart away from people where you can just dwell in the presence of our Lord.
All of us can use rest in different ways. And if we’re resting too much, we can help others who need more rest by offering to provide free babysitting or meals.
The purpose of the Year of Jubilee is to turn our anxieties away from our debts (or our debtors), our jobs, our busy lives, and reflect on God as our provider.
So as you explore implementing a Jubilee of your own, remember who it’s about. We rest because God rested. We forgive debts because God forgave ours. We tell others in spiritual bondage about God who freed us because he freed us.
I can’t wait to see more Year of Jubilees implemented amongst Christians and the impact it can have on the world. As we bring the kingdom of God to this earth.
How to Rest in the Lord When Your World Is Upside Down
21 Bible Verses for Sleep and Rest When Your Soul Needs Peace
5 Essential Reasons to Practice Sabbath
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/fizkes
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author 21+ books. More than 1400 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.