Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Economics in the Kingdom of God

If we truly understood in our hearts the economy of God, capitalism wouldn't be possible, and Marxism wouldn't be necessary.

~ w/ credit to Shane Claiborne
That was posted on a friend's Facebook wall recently, and she followed it up with this:
Acts 2:44-46 - All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.

I don't know how this begins (or if I'd be unselfish enough to do it if I knew how to begin); but I know as I type on my ipad, sitting on my memory foam mattress, that right now I am too comfortable with my personal wants and comforts and tend to resist that which I think asks too much of me. I see a gap between where I am and what these verses tell, and I want to know what lies between my here and their there.
I have never taken an economics class.  My eyes glaze over when people start talking about the economy or 401Ks or IRAs or Social Security or Wall Street or anything related to those topics.  I just do not have a head for it, so I am utterly unqualified to really write anything informative about "the economy".  But I can ask questions about things that have confused me.

  • I have often heard in church, throughout my life, that everything we have comes from God, nothing is really our own; it is just on loan to us.  If this is true, why are so many of us so intent on claiming that we have worked so hard for our money?
  • How much money has been raised in campaign contributions this year (for all parties and candidates at any level) and if that was applied to the national debt, where would we stand?
  • Why are the verses my friend posted about often explained as "that's the church's job, not the government's", but so many people also believe we are a Christian nation founded on Christian values and principles?  Which values and principles really matter?  
  • If think about our needs and our wants and were really honest about it, then isn't it really our wants and the idea of keeping up with the Joneses that drives "the economy" and not our needs?  
There may not be concrete answers to these questions, and they make some people very angry.  I know I am very comfortable in my middle-class lifestyle and would not like changing it.  But I also see a lot of conflict between Christian faith and American culture, and I'm really not sure what to do about it.

What are your thoughts?


Sean Palmer said...

I hear the "that's the church's job" myself. A lot. The problem is that the problems are too big for the church. No church, regardless of size or how much they leverage can be as useful as larger organizations - the largest being the government. And while government cannot be the complete answer (because they have to treat everyone the same - drug addict and struggling single mom), they can't do it alone.

While the problems are too big, the church is too small. I'm not only talking about numbers, but churches will find a common good to work for in their city, but won't work with another denomination of a different theological stripe to fix it.

And the simple truth is, we're greedy. We all have more than we need and we're looking to get more than we have. We live - largely - on the assumption that all we have is for our consumption, and we're great people if we give the least little bit away. I'm not immune. And, I suspect, most of us aren't.

Kelly J Youngblood said...

Yes, exactly. Certain denominations won't work together, especially if they think some are not "true Christians", some churches are just focused on numbers and building bigger buildings and "saving souls".

And yes, we are greedy. I know I am. I tend to think about myself and my family most of the time and not so much other people who have needs.

robin-ali said...

I'm not sure if I agree that the church is too small. Maybe too divided. But the resources, Holy Spirit being the biggest resource, is within Christ's body. Look at how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are changing the town of Redding, in California, by his people at Bethel Church. That church's tithe goes to the town not to themselves. Wow. If you ask people in that town about Bethel Church, many will tell you that they have been prayed for by those people and that that church really loves people etc... They are changing the culture of the town with love, mercy, and service. They are not going to the town and saying "Give me this," "Approve this," "Make this illegal," "Change yourself!"

Another thought I have is how to take action, even a stumbling baby step, towards some of what you mentioned. If you see a value problem with the capitalist ideology, then how can you start making choices right now that begin to line up with those Kingdom of God values?

The next time you go to the grocery store? The next time you take a shower? The next time you see a homeless person? The next time you go to work? Pray, ask questions, and then do something. Then after a little while check and monitor yourself.