Definitions are very important as they help us steer our way through our world; they help provide landmarks along the way. Naming the animals was a step toward right stewardship, and also opened the possibility of ownership and control. Definitions of course have their limitations, but I was provoked and challenged when sitting listening to a Zimbabwean speak. His question to us was to consider what are we were investing into. To help us he used the two phrases of ‘artificial’ and ‘creational’ wealth. One he said was how the (industrialised) West defines wealth, but is illusionary. This he, therefore, termed ‘artificial’.
I appreciate that he was speaking as someone from the land, and that the culture most of live in is very different to that. We cannot draw a straight line from one to the other. We cannot even, for example, simply talk of ‘the gold standard’ as if that is objective. (Gold is part of creation – ‘creational’ wealth?; yet the value of gold is what we place on it – ‘artificial’ wealth?)
Now if we simplify these things to ‘money in the bank’ and ‘resources that I am stewarding’ we would probably need to acknowledge that the line between the two is not an easy one to draw. There will be huge blurred areas down the middle. Money – even if it is created in the main from nothing – is not in itself an evil. It could even be argued that it is a reflection of the creativity within humanity. However, excessive pursuit of money and the resultant debt that is created seems to me to be something that will always eventually be judged. It is that judgement we can read about in Revelation. It is that drain on the resources of the world to a centre that is judged.
So even if there is a great creativity in producing money, once money is there simply to make money I suggest we are right into the territory of artificial wealth producing yet more artificial wealth.
In most business classes investment options are assessed on the basis of the financial return they can bring. Is that the only assessment that should be applied? Indeed is that the main assessment? If this remains the only measurement there can only be one-way traffic – those with money will gain even more. It is time to suggest some new guides for measurement.
In our recent trip to Romania we were very impressed with financial investments being made there from some non-(Christian)-faith-professing people. One had encouraged the other saying that this would be the best investment he could make with a guaranteed outcome. The guaranteed return was JOY. So investing into a project working with the poor of the poor will not produce an evident financial (artificial?) return but would produce something all-together different. Values…
So how about other values being applied rather than simply a monetary one? How about some other ‘returns’? Returns measured by the contribution toward a healthy environment, wholesome food, fertile land, pure water, clean air, and of course loving families and communities, recreational enjoyment, or the like? Surely real wealth must include some or all of the above as well as helping shape an environment for artistic and wholesome spiritual expression. These are not so easy to place a market value on but must be closer toward creational wealth than artificial wealth.
In many areas we are undergoing a re-calibration within our globalised world. This must be an incredible moment for believers in a God of creation whose Spirit is groaning for the new creation to burst forth.
Let’s begin by trying to bring some re-calibrations to some common areas. What would ‘work’ in the post-agrarian societies that most of us inhabit look like. How should those who truly work creationally be rewarded? As we approach that we would have to face the pain of living in a fallen reality. I recently took a slavery survey, and the survey suggested that I had 32 slaves working for me globally. We live simply by many standards (50 sq. metres of accommodation, no car) yet we do not live simply by the standards of many. Our life-style brings some of them some income yet exploits others in the process. (Sweat shops brings some income, and great enslavement: evil? lesser of two evils? fallen? Certainly not a great expression of creational wealth.)
So we have to face the pain of a fallen reality, but we also must seek to raise the bar so that we can be redemptive. (Maybe for a later article) the language of ‘the lesser of two evils’ is surely not very ‘Christian’. I much prefer the language of ‘the most redemptive choice’ we can make.
So if we are those who breath the air of a new age what creational impact can we make into a world that has built itself towers mainly founded on artificial wealth?
Charles Eisenstein (essayist and author of the books Sacred Economics) says:
Instead of being born into debt (to society, the ancestors, God, the cosmos), perhaps we are born into gratitude: the knowledge of how much we have received, and the desire to give in turn.
Maybe very optimistic. Sad though if he is more optimistic about change than a believer touched by the eternal Creator God.