Friday, January 25, 2008

Jubilee or Economic Depression?

This is an interetsting biblical perspective on the current economic situation from Steve Wood's newsletter
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 17:47:40 -0500

Editor's Note: The article below entitled, "Jubilee or Depression," is a slightly revised article that appeared in the November 1999 issue of this newsletter. Within two years of publishing this article the NASDAQ lost 80% of its value and the S&P500 lost 50%. I don't claim to be a stock picker or financial forecaster, but I think it is time to re-visit the timeless principles described in this article.

Jubilee or Depression?

The best way to prevent depressions is to follow the Jubilee pattern in the Old Testament. The Jewish jubilee occurred every 50 years. Most people are aware that the Jews were to take one day off every week for rest and worship: the Sabbath day. Many are unaware of the ancient Jewish practice of allowing the land to rest one complete year every seven years. The seventh year was regarded as a Sabbath year (Leviticus 25:4). Since ancient Israel was mostly an agricultural economy, the Sabbath year had strong economic overtones as the land, the workers, and the economy were able to rest.

A special blessing for the poor every seventh year was the requirement that Israelites were to be released from all debts (Deuteronomy 15:1-11). In ancient Israel debt was not the economic lifestyle it has become in the modern world. Debt was regarded as a form of economic servitude. As Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." Debt was avoided by all, except by those whose extreme poverty drove them into it.

The seventh year cancellation of all debts put a brake on any tendency for ancient Israel to become a permanently indebted economy. Things such as thirty-year loans were prohibited. There was no long-term incentive for lenders to promote debt. It was impossible for the nation to slip into a lifestyle of debt.

After 49 years, expressed as "seven weeks of years" in Leviticus 25:8, there was to be a super Sabbath year called the Jubilee. In addition to the economy being allowed a Sabbath year's rest and debts being released, the Jubilee laws in Leviticus had two more economic provisions.

The first provision was that family land that had been sold because of economic necessity was to be returned. The Jubilee prevented conglomerates from permanently gobbling up the land and extinguishing the small family farm. God wanted each family in ancient Israel to be able to provide for its own needs. Having land as a family inheritance was the pathway to economic freedom for generation after generation of Israelite families.

The second Jubilee law provided freedom from servitude (Leviticus 25:39-41). If an Israelite fell into dire economic straits, frequently stemming from the inability to repay debts, he could indenture himself as a hired servant. The Jubilee freed all Israelites from this servitude. God's Jubilee provision meant that none of his people were to be permanently trapped in economic bondage.

While the exact application of the Old Testament Jubilee legislation is not binding in the New Covenant, the principles of economic justice are certainly timeless. Violating these principles brings servitude to the poor, debt lifestyles, and depressions instead of jubilees.

In his Apostolic Letter, As the Third Millennium Draws Near, Pope John Paul II said that "The custom of jubilees, which began in the Old Testament … continues in the church."

God's laws and the principles deriving from them are ordered in reality. Release from debt will eventually occur, either through the pains of a depression, or through the joys of a jubilee. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is inscribed with, "Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land," a quotation from Leviticus 25:10 announcing the Year of Jubilee. But we live in a land that wants freedom, while ignoring the true source of liberty: God's Word.

Modern economies seem bent on violating the Sabbath (Lord's Day), the Sabbath year, and the Jubilee year principles. An endless 24/7 treadmill of activity in the world of business and commerce has displaced God's pattern of work and rest. Family businesses are gobbled up by the latest chain of superstores, while the family farm disappears and the ability of a working man to earn a wage sufficient to support his family is a distant memory. Instead of breaking the cycle of poverty, we have managed to create a welfare system that perpetuates trans-generational poverty in the world's most prosperous nation. Rather than minimizing indebtedness, we have pumped personal, corporate, and government debt into the largest "bubble economy" in human history. When the bubble finally pops - and it will - we will realize that our addiction to debt has brought us a depression instead of a jubilee.

Your Family Finances in an Age of Economic Jihad

There is a way to prevent boom-bust cycles and debt-driven depressions. Yet our national and state governments, our corporate leaders, and the vast majority of American families have chosen the option of plunging headlong into debt instead of economic freedom. Our debt-ridden banking and financial system resembles a pyramid scheme.

Consequences will inevitably follow. I can't say if it will take 10 weeks, 10 months, or 10 years, but there will be consequences. A Sabbath-breaking and increasingly debt-bloated economy is going to end up in a depressing mess. Some think that the Federal Reserve's tinkering with interest rates, or Washington's giving out $150 billion for Americans to buy consumer items like big screen TVs from China will save the economy. Who knows? Maybe these steps will turn things around. Then again such steps may just make matters worse in the long run.

No matter what the President, Congress, or the Federal Reserve does, I encourage you fathers to take steps, even radical ones, to protect the financial welfare of your family. Debt is always an albatross, but during a recession debt can completely ruin a family's finances. Whenever the debt bomb explodes, so many families will be affected that any available assistance will be minimal -unless our country accepts permanent federal intrusion into domestic finances.

In a recent survey by the Barna Organization (, 79% of American Christians said that indebtedness was their major concern.

Unfortunately, just having a concern about indebtedness and really doing something about it are worlds apart. Most people have a good general idea about what they should do about debt, but they don't do it. The root problem isn't information as much as motivation.

The best motivator I've seen in the twenty-eight years I've been studying no-debt/low-debt Christian teaching is Dave Ramsey. I found what I considered the most motivating of his materials and offered it to our donors as a premium and also offered it in our catalog. Both of my attempts to distribute his material met with "okay" success. Yet given our nation's economic condition, they should be flying off the shelves.

Last fall, I also produced a couple of CDs to assist families with their finances. One of the CDs was entitled "Economic Jihad: Vital Information for Protecting Your Family." Describing this CD in a letter to members of our Family Life Team (our donors), we warned that a major economic terrorist assault against the U.S. economy is well underway.

Few people remember that the United States actually created the Taliban by giving the "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan arms and $4 billion to bleed the Soviet Union to death financially during the Soviet occupation.

Well, it worked. So well, in fact, that these same Islamic fanatics are now using the tactics they learned from the American C.I.A. - and with the same devastating effect.

Osama Bin Laden publicly declared, "We are continuing in the same policy [we used against the Soviets], to make America bleed profusely to the point of bankruptcy, Allah willing. And that is not too difficult for Allah." Osama Bin Laden has declared a financial Jihad (Holy War) against the United States. And he brags that he spent a mere $500,000 to pull off the 9-11 attacks, which caused America to spend $500 billion in response.

This is how Osama summarizes the devastating result of his economic Jihad: "Each of Al Qaeda's dollars defeated one million American dollars, thanks to Allah's grace. This is in addition to the fact that America lost a large number of jobs. And as for the deficit, it lost a record number estimated at a trillion dollars."

Osama Bin Laden is evil. But he's not stupid. He is watching our federal deficits, our trade deficits, and the sinking dollar. Osama's strategy is to defeat America by drowning us in debt, while urging his fellow Moslems to avoid debt. In fact, a fatwa (religious edict) has been issued forbidding Moslems to go into debt. And for the first time in 77 years the Moslems have now resumed minting the Dinar - an actual gold coin - so that Moslems can exchange money and build wealth debt-free.

Meanwhile, Dubai (a Muslim country and financial center) investors recently purchased 20% of the NASDAQ. Dubai investors have also purchased a $7.5 billion stake in Citigroup to assist with its sub-prime debt mess.

The Federal Reserve has just lowered the federal fund rate by .75%, the President and Congress are working on a stimulus package, and the usual election year stimulus/spending strategies are underway. What does this mean for you? It means that you may have a window of opportunity to move your family finances away from the epicenter of the debt implosion.

I'm sticking my neck out sending you this warning letter. You'll probably not read too many Catholic periodicals warning about this financial mess until its way too late to do anything. My advice is not to wait until everyone agrees it's time to do something. Take action now.

For some of you this will mean taking major steps like selling your home and moving to a more affordable one. Sound radical? It is. Just remember that it is infinitely less painful to move into a smaller home than to lose your home to the mortgage company.

I urge you to get moving with a lower debt and economically sound footing for your family's finances in these uncertain times. Whatever the economic future holds, you'll never regret living beneath your means, saving, and maintaining a low-debt profile.

Recommended Resources:
Economic Jihad: Vital Information for the Protection of Your Family Economic Jihad ComboFamily Finances 101The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free by Phil Lenahan (These materials by Phil Lenahan have been designed for parish-based small groups. Phil's small group materials are a superb way for parishes to offer practical assistance to families.) .

Sound Economic Advice from Scripture:
Do not become a beggar by feasting with borrowed money. Sirach 18:33

From the Wall Street Journal: 1993"History shows that once nominal growth slows in a heavily indebted economy, there can be no recovery until the excess debt is eliminated. Political efforts to expand debt do nothing to lift the burden of debt service, which is the cause of slow growth and faltering incomes in the first place." (Source: John Mauldin's "Outside the Box" [])

Family Life Team
Shaunti Feldhahn, a former Federal Reserve financial analyst, warns that previous recessions with only a 5% dip in the overall economy resulted in a 20% drop in charitable giving.

Therefore, I ask those of you who profit spiritually and financially from our resources to remember us in your giving, especially if the recession deepens. In addition to praying for our donor's spiritual welfare, we also pray for your marriage and family, and your job and business.

Radio broadcast schedule
Faith & Family Radio: 2:00 PM [ET] on Thursdays on the EWTN Global Catholic Network. Visit the homepage of to view listener resources and to listen to the most recent show. Sirius Satellite Radio (channel 160) This Thursday (January 24th) will be an important broadcast. The show will be about a bold constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade. This isn't a project decades away. It is something that is being planned now. I invite you to tune in and call with your questions and comments.

Yours in His Majesty’s Service, Steve Wood

Family Life Center International - 2130 Wade Hampton Blvd. Greenville, SC 29615

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