The Book of Leviticus argues that any financial bailout should include the ability for homeowners to renegotiate their mortgages. Well, not in exactly those words but David Abramowitz in In Character magazine explains that Old Testament economics was radically redistributionist and forgiving of debt:

“The biblical Jubilee addressed the relationship between economic prosperity and human dignity. Land had been distributed equitably among the original Israelites — each household had received land of roughly equivalent value. Over time, as market transactions occurred, some families became better at commerce and had more wealth with which to buy land. Eventually distribution would become unequal.

“The Jubilee mandated that every fifty years, regardless of what the market had produced, land was returned to its original distribution. In this conception, human beings were more stewards than absolute owners. Overturning the consequences of bad bargains freely made during the course of time advanced ethical goals more than strict adherence to contract enforcement.
“And in this spirit, promoting massive foreclosures rather than encouraging a policy of forgiving is a morally hazardous course for our society.
“The Old Testament custom of the sabbatical (the ‘shmittah’) — which required that personal debts be forgiven every seven years — is also relevant today. Time and again, the Jubilee, Sabbatical and other biblical precepts portray property as encumbered by a social obligation that competes with, and usually prevails over, pure economic efficiency.
“For example, witness the obligation regarding the farmer to leave the corners of fields ‘for the poor and stranger,’ un-harvested, to be picked for free by those in need (Leviticus 19:9-10). It can hardly be ethical to view property as fully under the dominion of individuals (and by extension, corporations) while also finding fault for failing to share some portion of property with those unable to pay the market rate. The Leviticus approach to property is imbued with the notion that people deserve a second chance.”
More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad