Magazine article Tikkun

Jubilee on Wall Street: Taking the Bull by the Horns

Magazine article Tikkun

Jubilee on Wall Street: Taking the Bull by the Horns

Article excerpt

Sometimes folks say, "But the Jews never really practiced the Jubilee." We Christians have never really practiced the Sermon on the Mount very well, either. Nonetheless, God's intention is clear, despite our failure to obey. Jubilee was still God's dream, and it's our job to keep the dream alive.

We are living in a time of unprecedented economic disparity between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots.

The stats are mind-boggling.

Just consider this:

The richest 20 percent of the world owns 80 percent of the world's wealth.

The poorest 20 percent of the world owns 1.4 percent of the world's wealth.

The richest 1 percent of the world owns 40 percent of the world's wealth.

The average CEO in the United States is making 380 times the pay of the average worker. That means the average worker needs to work an entire month to make what the CEO makes in one hour.

A Forbes study recently showed that the world's richest eighty-five people now own the same wealth as 3.5 billion people.

Eighty-five people own as much wealth as half the world.

A world in which a handful of people live however they wish while masses of others live in poverty is a fragile world. And a world where three people own the same resources as the combined economy of forty-eight countries is a dangerous world.

That's the bad news. But here's the good news: God did not mess up and make too many people or too little stuff. There is enough-so long as we share it. As Gandhi said, there is enough for everyone's need but not enough for everyone's greed.

When you look at our world, it doesn't take long to see how sensible God's idea of Jubilee is. It's a divine interruption to the patterns of inequality-redistributing property, forgiving debt, setting slaves free, and letting the earth rest. It is God's emancipation proclamation.

But what would Jubilee look like today?

Planning for Jubilee

Ten years ago, my radical faith community, The Simple Way, decided to do a little experiment: a Jubilee celebration on Wall Street. And folks from all over the country joined us.

We had $10,000 that had formerly been invested in stocks and was now meant to be given away to those in need. We thought, "Where better to give it away than on Wall Street?" It was a year after September 11 and nine years before the Occupy movement. We agreed to throw the party on Wall Street, deliberately bringing the poor and rich face-to-face to expose the economic patterns of the world we live in.

So we set the date and started conspiring. And then we realized we needed a few things, such as a ram's horn. How can you have a Jubilee without a shofar? As we asked around, our eighty-year-old Catholic nun, Sister Margaret, chimed in with a smile, "I've got a shofar. I will bring it." And she did. All the other details were worked out and soon the special day was around the corner.

We invited homeless folks from all over Manhattan to join us at the main entrance of the New York Stock Exchange at a specific date and time.

We had a gift: $10,000. We had withdrawn the money in small change and bills (by the way, $1,000 worth of nickels is a lot of nickels!). And thousands of the dollar bills had "love" written on them.

In the early morning hours, the money was disbursed among dozens of people who would play various roles in this theater on the streets. Some were on bikes, some dressed as tourists, and others dressed as business folks. Briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, and even coffee mugs were filled with money-over 30,000 coins that would be dumped on cue.

We trickled in from all directions unassumingly, and homeless folks from all over New York City met us on Wall Street.

As the opening bell rang on Wall Street, we made the Jubilee pronouncement:

Some of us have worked on Wall Street, and some of us have slept on Wall Street. Some of us are rich people trying to escape our loneliness. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.