People simply do not divest themselves of power and perceived security. There is power and seeming security in having an abundance materially. In my recent explorations, I have written of the Jubilee of forgiveness. I am making a small shift here. Whether it is a restoration of land and forgiveness of debt, or forgiveness extended to a transgressor of personhood, a dehumanizer, there is inevitably in the act of forgiveness: the empowerment of the other. The forgiven gain agency economically and relationally. For the purpose of this reflection, I will focus on some implications of economic empowerment.
Augustine explains in his second sermon (2.3 in Sermons, vol. III.1) the rationale for God’s test of Abraham’s devotion through calling for the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:2):
You must know then, dearly beloved, that God’s testing is not aimed at his getting to know something he was ignorant of before, but at bringing to light what was hidden in a person, by means of a test,…There are things in a person which are hidden from the person in whom they are. And they won’t come out, or be opened up, or discovered, except through tests and trials and temptations. If God stops testing, it means the master is stopping teaching. God tempts or tests in order to teach, the devil tests or tempts in order to mislead.
Abraham was in need of growth in self-awareness and his ultimate blessing was, that he would be taught by none other than the one true God. He would learn not onlyWealth can give the impression that it can provide autonomously for needs, but inevitably removes from view the proper focus upon God. more about himself, but also about God and his reliability. The provision of the ram (Genesis 22:13) showed in a deeper, more profound way, that “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22:14), the name that Abraham gave to the place of testing.
Was the Jubilee year given only for the sake of maintaining the recognition that all the land was the Lord’s anyway? Was it provided to bring about a form of equity in the ownership of material blessings? Would it be a safeguard against greed that often accompanies the accumulation of material wealth? I would affirm all of the above as facets of the rationale for the Jubilee year. I would also raise the possibility that the Jubilee year was a test for the purpose of teaching the people what God already knew about them. A call to relinquish certain manifestations of power would arouse a powerful temptation to maintain such power. They would come into awareness of their own greed and their willingness to construct justification systems in order to “legitimately” wallow in their own greed. They would learn also that they have an inadequate and distorted view of God in the process.
Their concern for a divesture of power would show that they did not believe that God would provide for their needs. Wealth can give the impression that it can provide autonomously for needs, but in the process, this focus inevitably removes from view the proper focus upon God.
A type of divesture of power must occur to facilitate the entrepreneurship of others, leading to a greater facilitation of image-flourishing. The matter of faith in God, admittedly, is more an issue for believers. In the next reflection, I will attempt to show how levels of awareness can be used to address the secular business world.