However, there will be no poor among you, since the LORD will surely bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today
Deuteronomy 15: 4-5
As I read through the Old Testament, I am reminded of just how many of our laws have some basis in the Torah (Jewish Law provided by God). For example, there must be two witnesses to charge anyone with a crime comes from the Torah.
Specifically, many of our bankruptcy and other financial laws are firmly based in Biblical teaching. For example, any effects of bankruptcy are to be wiped clean after seven years just as the Lord commanded Israel to forgive all debts every seven years.
So as I read this verse, I can’t help but think to myself, “Why in the richest nation in the world, do we have so many poor people?” And “Why are so few participating in the bounty that is the US stock market miracle?” With stock prices at all-time highs, why do so many feel so financially strapped, so ill-equipped for retirement? And are the answers to these questions in a Book that was written around 3800 years ago? Is the rampant poverty in our nation a direct result of our disobedience to God? And if so, how does that mean the situation will be resolved?
I think the following chart tells it all. It is a few years out-dated but I think we can all agree that the trend presented in it has been dutifully carried forward.
The chart shows that it is not just the 1% benefiting in this economy. It’s the top half of one percent. Even the super-rich are being left behind for the benefit of the uber-rich. So if the super-rich can’t even get a head in this economy, what does that say for the middle-class and underprivileged? Well, we know it doesn’t bode well for them and here is a chart to illustration what we already know – the uber-rich keep getting even uber-richer while the poor and middle-class are taking it on the chin.
Unfortunately, for the uber-rich, this current trend cannot go on in perpetuity. Eventually, the system will have to reset and hopefully it will do so without any sort of significant crippling of our economy or society.
The Torah not surprisingly provides a wonderful framework for ensuring there would not be widespread poverty. I invite you to read it for yourself but here are some highlights as I interpret them (I am by no means a Biblical scholar so anything I write should be confirmed through your own research.)
- Debt in moderation: Debt was to be forgiven every 7 years. And never could a man’s means of making a living be taken as collateral.
- Compulsory charity: Ancient Jews were commanded to provide a means for the poor to help themselves. They were not to sow every inch of their land, rather they were commanded to leave some behind so the poor could help themselves in feeding their family. Charity was the responsibility of the people and not in the government’s hands.
- Mandatory rest: Every seven years and every seventh day, Jews were commanded to rest. What an incredible world we would live in if every person had to step away from their job every seventh year or at least every seventh day to spend time with family, doing charity, traveling, ect. What a way to reset one’s priorities! This would force citizens to save and when a recession hits and they lose their job, no biggie, take your Sabbath year!
Robert Earl Keen sings, “the Road goes on forever, the party never ends”. But I content the road this economy is on cannot go on forever and the party will end. And when it does, it will serve as a mandatory reset of our nation’s economy flipping the scales of economic injustice in the process.