As a small non-profit with a big mission, we rely on the generous gifts of supporters like you to help our ministry prosper and grow.



Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Tuesday, November 3

And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family.
—Leviticus 25:10

I’m always taken aback when a student in one of my college English classes points out the “unfairness” of giving someone a second chance. Such criticism, I’ve concluded, rests on two powerful, though often unstated, beliefs: 

(1) I worked hard to get what I have, and everyone else should have to do the same, and 

(2) People ought to “get what they deserve.”

Cringing when I hear the latter argument, I usually reply with something like, “Gosh, I hope not. I’d rather not get what I deserve.” Give me mercy any day.

Though the Old Testament book of Leviticus is probably best known as a stringent code of conduct, governing everything from what to eat to what kind of clothes to wear, it is also the source of one of Judaism’s most far-reaching and liberating principles of faith—the year of jubilee. What this practice meant to impoverished Israelites is hard to imagine today: those who had sold their land in order to feed their families were allowed to get it back, and those who had sold themselves into slavery were set free. Could anything be more generous, more radical than this?

Speaking before the House Committee on Banking and Financial Services in 1999, Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold stated, “The essence of Jubilee is related to suspending patterns—patterns of work, patterns of domination, patterns of acquisition. It recognizes the need for things to rest, to restore ‘right relationships,’ and recover equilibrium in the world.” 

For the Israelites, this practice was a way of setting things straight, of lessening the tensions between rich and poor, haves and have-nots. It wiped the slate clean.

Idealistic or not, the notion of jubilee speaks to a need we all have—the opportunity to begin again, to have a second chance. Such is the nature of mercy, and such is the gift of the One who cares for us day after day.

O God, help us never to forget that you stand ready always, desiring to give us what we cannot give ourselves, desiring to re-create us day by day.

These Signposts were originally published on in 2005.