The Jubilee Year assured that the gap between the rich and the poor was minimal because the means of producing wealth (land) was to be equalized regularly. "Because he disapproves of extremes of wealth among His people, God ordains equalizing mechanisms like the year of Jubilee" (Sider, 90).
The theological support for this is the fact that God owns the land. "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me" (Lev. 25:23).
B. The Sabbatical Year or "Year of the Lord's Favor”
the Old Testament law also provides for liberation of soil [land], slaves and debtors [loans] every seven years.
1. Land: Every 7 years farmers are not to plant crops (Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:2-7). This has both an ecological and humanitarian purpose.
helps preserve the fertility of the soil.
"For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat” (Ex. 23:10 11). In the 7th year the poor are free to gather for themselves whatever grows by itself in the fields and vineyards. These are called “volunteers.”
2. Slaves: Hebrew slaves also receive their freedom in the sabbatical year (Deut. 15:12-18). Poverty sometimes forced Israelites to sell themselves as slaves to more prosperous neighbors (Lev. 25:3940). But this inequality, God decrees, is not to be permanent.
However, what would soon happen to a slave if he/she was let go after many years?
In addition, masters are to share the proceeds of their joint labors with the departing ex-slaves. "And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed; you shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your wine press, as the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him" (Deut 15:12-14; see also Ex. 21:2-6)
3. Loans: Every 7 years all debts are to be canceled! (Deut. 15:1-6).
C. Laws of Tithing- the law calls for one-tenth of all farm produce and/or money, whether animal, grain or wine, to be set aside as a tithe. "At the end of every three years you shall bring forth all the tithe of your produce in the same year... and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled: that the Lord your God may bless you" (Deut 14:28-29; see also Lev. 27:30-32; Deut 26:12-15; Num 18:21-32).
God's law decreed that farmers should leave some of the harvest, including the corners of grain fields, for the poor. For example, grapes that had been dropped accidentally were to be left. "You shall leave them for the poor and the sojourners: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 19:9-10) D. Laws of Gleaning -
-Corners of the fields … leave some of the harvest for the poor, including: -Grapes accidentally dropped. -Secondary harvest.
“ When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4:14-21
For centuries this was the church’s only response to “the poor”
Catholic Social Teaching “the best kept secret of the church” (unfortunately)
Catholic Social Teaching is the Catholic Church’s developed body of teaching on social, economic, political, and cultural matters that began with Pope Leo XIII in 1891 with Rerum Novarum. The teachings include papal encyclicals, bishop’s letters and papal pronouncements on social justice and peace.
The longing for justice has been a central element in the Christian tradition from earliest biblical times to the present.
“ Without work for justice”, declared the 1971 Synod of Catholic bishops, “we do not have true Gospel living”.
The opening lines of The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) of the Second Vatican Council stated this dimension of the Christian calling most vividly:
“ The joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way oppressed, these are the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the followers of Christ”
CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING IS AN EFFORT TO SPELL OUT JUST WHAT IT MEANS TO TAKE UP THE “JOYS AND HOPES, SORROWS AND ANXIETIES” OF OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS TODAY.
Issued on the fifteenth of May 1891. Literally "Of New Things," on capital and labor and the condition of the working class . This was a a very significant encyclical. Rerum Novarum broke down the barriers that separated the church from the worker. Never before had the church spoken on social matters in such an official and comprehensive fashion.
Quadragesimo Anno : On the Reconstruction of the Social Order – 1931
This encyclical repeated many of the themes of Rerum Novarum: the dignity of labor, the rights of workers to organize, etc. Quadragesimo anno also emphasized the immorality of keeping economic control in the hands of a few.
Issued May 15, 1961. Literally "Mother and Teacher," on Christianity and Social progress. This encyclical gave an updated interpretation of the classic theme of private property and introduced the notion of private initiative as an extension of private property. While Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno left responsibility for social justice with the individual, Mater et Magistra placed some in the hands of the state. (this encyclical needs to be read in conjunction with…
Pacem in Terris , literally "Peace on Earth," Pope John XXIII's other great encyclical.) in which he contends that peace can be established only if the social order set down by God is fully observed (justice). Peace needs to be based on an order “founded on truth, built according to justice, vivified and integrated by charity, and put into practice in freedom”.
Octogesima Adveniens : A Call to Action (May 14, 1971) Issued for the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum
Populorum Progressio : On the Development of People –
Issued March 26, 1967. Literally "On the Development of Peoples." A vigorous endorsement of Mater et Magistra, Populorum Progressio enlarges the scope of Leo XIII’s treatment of the struggle between the rich and the poor classes to encompass the conflict between rich and poor nations. It is the first encyclical devoted entirely to the international development issue. He explores the nature of poverty and the conflicts it produces. He stresses the economic sources of war and highlights economic justice as the basis of peace. More so than any of his predecessors, Paul VI explicitly criticizes basic tenets of capitalism, including the profit motive and the unrestricted right of private property.
Issued on September 14, 1981. Pope John Paul II affirms the dignity of work and places work at the center of the social question. Work expresses and increases human dignity. He supports the rights of workers and unions.
Sollicitudo Rei Socialis : On the Twentieth Anniversary of Populorum Progressio
Issued on December 30, 1987. Literally "On Social Concerns," commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Populorum Progressio. Solicitudo Rei Socialis presented an overview of modern social problems with some guidelines for action. It dealt with authentic human development and adopted a critical attitude toward both capitalism and communism. He refers to the obstacles hindering development as the “structures of sin” and calls for conversion toward solidarity and the option for the poor. While he does speak of the responsibilities of the poor countries, by far his strongest challenge is to the affluent world. Solicitudo Rei Socialis warned that economic development alone may not set people free but only enslave them more.
Centesimus Annus : The Hundredth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum –
Issued on May 1, 1991. Literally, "The Hundredth Year," commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Centesimus Annus brought Rerum Novarum up to date and tied it to "the preferential option for the poor." done in the context of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Centesimus Annus notes the fall of “Real Socialism,” but cautions against thinking that this fall signifies a victory for capitalism.