Joe the Plumber in the Year of Jubilee

Joe the plumber is famous for asking the right question of Barak Obama: how will your policy impact my income? The presidential candidate stirred up a political storm with his reply, which included this general statement: “I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

You can read the entire transcript at MSNBC but there is one other text that will shed light on this matter: in the Bible, the book of Leviticus, chapter 25. There, and in two other places, you will find a description of a year-long festival known as Jubilee. The name is taken from the Hebrew word for the ram’s horn; the year of Jubilee commenced with the blowing of the horn.

A Jubilee year occurred every 50 years, or at the end of seven cycles of seven years. Three things happened during the year of Jubilee: the fields were left untilled, land reverted to its original owner, and all slaves were freed.

These Jubilee practices were designed to keep the land—and therefore the means of wealth—distributed among the people. The purpose was to prevent a few landowners from accumulating most of the land while the many landless were without means of support. In other words, it is a biblical principle of distributing the wealth and preventing extreme gaps between the rich and the poor. It is an application of the very principal enunciated by Obama: when you spread the wealth around it is good for everybody.

Of course, Obama’s critics have taken his simple statement as a prescription for socialism and even communism. “Taking from some and giving to others,” they say, their words dripping with derision.

But, as former General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell pointed out on Sunday, all taxation is—in some sense—taking from some and giving to others—or giving to everyone, as in the case of public projects, like roads and bridges.

I for one am glad about this national policy of the many helping the few. My mother died in February and was buried in a military cemetery; there was no cost; all expense was born by the tax-payers. My dad has Alzheimer’s disease, lives in a nursing home, and draws a Social Security check. My grandson Sam is being raised by a single mother; he has a medical card from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. There are all very common examples of people in need being cared for by those with means.

Taxation helps to maintain some sense of fairness in the distribution of wealth in the country. It is not right for a few to live in luxury while the many live in want. The disparity between the rich and the poor, either in a country or between countries, is the chief cause of social instability in the world.

Taxation is one way to adjust this inequity; charity is another—as when governments give foreign aid or participate in international relief efforts; but the way described in the Bible is the Year of Jubilee.

Some denounce this as socialism. The Christian gospel simply calls it justice.

2 comments so far

  1. Ronald Veenker on

    Well done, Dwight. As an OT professor, retired, I didn’t think of the connection to the Jubilee. Thanks for the enlightenment.

    Ron Veenker

  2. Tad on

    Wow! I expected more from a student of the Bible Dr. Moody. Are you so enamored with taking the socialists easy way out that you mistakenly promote socialism as a “Biblical concept”? You couldn’t be further from the truth in this case. Why do you think God blesses each according to his ability? Why did the master give his three servents different amounts and punish the one who buried it yet rewarded the ones who multiplied thiers? There are too many examples in the Bible that support capitalism with responsibility. I’m disappointed in your short sighted proof texting.

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