Leviticus 25:23: “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants” (NIV).
Observation: God here reiterated His ownership of everything. Knowing that a Year of Jubilee would occur on a fixed, fifty-year schedule became part of the basis for calculating a property’s purchase price. Carrying this even further, a poor man who sold property retained the right to redeem the property at any time (Lev. 25:25). If he remained poor and couldn’t come up with the price of redemption, at least in the Year of Jubilee he knew he would get the land back.
Application: What an astonishing concept, this Year of Jubilee, as it is in such profound conflict with our modern way of approaching life and possessions. We buy land “permanently.” We work hard to buy houses we’re so committed to keeping that we will even joke that “they’ll have to carry me out of here on a stretcher.” We give our lives to accumulating capital, whether in the form of real estate, retirement plans, businesses, or whatever. There could hardly be a more profound difference between God’s financial system in Leviticus, and the way we, and most everyone we know, live our lives today. We wonder, how could God have gotten it so wrong?
What He seems to be presenting is the idea of a profound difference between capital and income. All capital, He says, is His. Land could be purchased temporarily but always with the price discounted for the number of years left until the next Jubilee. At some level, God’s approach seems sensible to me. I understand that death is the great leveler; I hold things temporarily in the sense that there are no U-Hauls hitched to hearses. But what if I could take it with me? Would I? Well, sure. I worked hard for my stuff. I deserve it, and besides, isn’t there always the possibility that the place Jesus has prepared for me may not be in the neighborhood I merit?
One of the most profound privileges of watching my wife’s slow descent into paralysis and death was to realize we were both losing interest in things formerly important: her ability to drive, to dream together about vacations, wearing “just-right” makeup and physical adornment. Political victories, favorite TV programs, all the accoutrements of life gradually extinguished as we contemplated her coming Jubilee, her time of returning to her creator and original owner. And I constantly wondered: How much of God had we missed by living as though He had gotten it all wrong in Leviticus?
Prayer: Father, You have been so constant, so unchanging in Your efforts to get me to live as though You owned it all. Forgive me for living so casually in the midst of Your clear principles. Thank You for finally breaking through my hard heart to make the First Commandment first.