A Biblical Rationale for Affordable Housing

This chapter, Ownership, Land and Jubilee authored by Lowell Nobel with Bert Newton, Ed Mahoney, and Jill Shook begins with a story about Dr. John Perkins, a landless young black son of a sharecropper, who had only his labor and dignity.  Dr. Perkins’s life is contrasted with that of land owners, which sets the scene for delving into the Old Testament concepts of land use, our relationship to land and the material world. Land use laws in Lev. 25 unpacked, along with the application of Sabbath economics (Duet. 15) for today’s world. This chapter gives and overview of how God’s has laid out a plan for the alleviation of poverty: The Jubilee, where every fifty years the principle of grace and limits requires those who had acquired much, to share with those who had none.  Modern day examples of how this has worked are in this chapter. Whether of not a community or nation knows they have tapped into the application of biblical principle it works, as its how God intended the land to be uses.  In Israel, because these laws were not obeyed, the prophets screamed down from heaven for Israel to wake up to these Sabbath Laws (Isaiah 5, Micah 2) so they would not lose their land.  The book of Lamentations is about grieving over loss of their land. The prophets also bring bright glimmers of hope for a housed city (Isaiah 65).

The chapter then swings into the heart of Jesus announcing his mission (Luke 4) to bring good news to the poor by addressing oppression and proclaiming the Jubilee. Jesus’ prophetic role is reminiscent of the prophets of old as he shouts “Woe to the rich!” The Early Church demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit by breaking an addiction to riches by selling land, and living out the Jubilee. “There will be no poor among you”—a goal of the Sabbath Laws given in Duet 15—is fulfilled in Act 4: “And there was no poor among them.”

Just as the prophets needed to call Israel back to obedience, today’s church has lost the mission of justice—in part due to biblical mistranslations.  This chapter’s focus is again placed on the hope for the Kingdom to come on earth as in heaven—the remedy for injustice.  Glimmers of that hope are evidenced today with churches living out aspects of the Jubilee, by taking land off the speculative market, and by creating affordable housing. 

Other Resources:

Walter Brueggermann, The Land

Ched Myers, Sabbath Economics

Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement by Bouma-Prediger and Walsh