Ben Bartosik

March 4, 2024

Recently picked up Justo L. González' book, Faith and Wealth. I've been a fan of his since reading his two volume 'Story of Christianity' for my mdiv and was excited to get into this, as wealth — and its relationship to both society and faith — is something I think about a fair amount. I'm still in the first chapter, which is looking at several pre-Christian understandings of wealth and I wanted to note something that stood out while reading this morning.

While writing about property ownership, González mentions that a major difference between the Roman legal system and the Jewish one is that under the latter owners of the land were required to offer some of it to the poor. This was called the pe'ah (meaning corner) and included the edges of the field, any fruit that fell to the ground, and anything the harvesters left over after their first pass. There was significant debate over some of the applications of this, but the core of it was that the poor had actual rights to the land that superseded the rights of the owners.

This is a fascinating example to bring into conversations of wealth redistribution and the relationship between private and public; because here we have a public legal framework enforcing the stewardship of private property ownership in a way that upholds a social policy in favour of the poor. It isn't quite common ownership but perhaps more rooted in the idea that we never truly own the land, it is more of a gift that we can share with others.