Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Economic Life (16) Extreme Poverty

If a person got into poverty, they would find someone to employ them for a season, so they could support their family. If they got even deeper into debt, they might need to bond themselves to a more prosperous person in return for that person paying off all their debts.

If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the LORD your God has blessed you. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today (Deut 15:12-15).
If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything (Ex 21:2).
The prosperous person must settle all the debts. In return for that, they poor person would agree to work for them for seven years. They would hope to learn from working with someone who has managed better than they have. The bond is limited to seven years. God’s people must not give up their freedom permanently.

When the person is set free, they person who paid the debts must be generous towards the person they have helped. They should send the person away with some working capital, so they can get going again.
Do not consider it a hardship to set your servant free, because their service to you these six years has been worth twice as much as that of a hired hand. And the LORD your God will bless you in everything you do (Deut 15:19).
People who are perpetual mis-managers may decide they would be better to stay as a bondservant.
But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. Do the same for your female servant (Deut 15:16-17).
Some people who are hopeless incompetent may need someone to manage for them. They could choose someone who will take care of them and their family and bond themselves to them.

This bond service is voluntary. It is for the benefit of the bondservant, not for the person holding the bond. The servant freely decides to be a servant. Since they voluntarily became a servant bondservant for live, they are free to leave at any time, provided someone pays the debt for them

The bondservant concept sounds odd in modern ears, but it is no more a loss of freedom than taking on a thirty-year mortgage.
Chattel slavery was not permitted.
If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them (Deut 23:15-16).
If a slave escaped from a different jurisdiction and sought shelter in a community, they must not be returned to their owner. They are to be set free to live in the community. God’s people are called to set people free, not to enslave them.
They did not have the ability or authority to use force to set slaves free. That was the American mistake, which enslaved more people.

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