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Amazonia, too

  • November 29, -0001
The material economy outlined for ancient Israel in the Law of God would be highly impractical in the modern world. It did promote two compelling ideas, however, which, in principle, are in danger of being lost by our materialistic age. The first is the idea of debt control. In ancient Israel borrowing was strictly limited to what people could expect to repay within a seven-year period. At the Sabbath year debts were cancelled and everyone started over from square one. This was an obvious way of discouraging people from borrowing more than they could hope to repay or loaning more than they were willing to lose. This provision taught people to live within their means and not to take advantage of one another. Being cut off from their local community for egregious violations of the laws of borrowing and lending would have had a powerful effect on the way people managed debt. The second idea was the reminder that the land was not ultimately the private possession of any individual, community, or tribe. The earth was the Lord's, and in order to keep people mindful of that, laws were provided to promote conservation and fruitfulness, to give the land rest from excessive farming and deforestation, and to return lands sold between Sabbath years to their original owners. There is not much evidence to suggest that the Israelites ever paid attention to these laws, but their incorporation in the Law of God at least teaches us how God expects us to think about economics: keep down the debt, be good stewards of the land, keep greed and speculation in check. According to The Economist (June 13, 2009), these economic principles may well be past recovering. Articles on the growing debt of rich nations and the ravaging of the Amazon forests warn that unrestrained land use, borrowing, and short-sighted development could injure not just future generations, but the planet itself. It may be too much to expect secular economists to mull over the wisdom of the divine economy, but is it too much for the followers of Christ? After all, Amazonia belongs the Lord, too.

T. M. Moore

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