Money and how we respond? Kingdom economics? I only have a few thoughts on this and have no way grasped where we need to go when we think about ‘transformation’. Inequalities are obvious and I am not a non-contributor to the inequality equation (double negative really means I am a contributor, but that has too much of an ‘ouch’ in it).
‘How much is too much?’ does not seem to be a question that the Scriptures directly answers; Jesus himself (the one who said ‘blessed are the poor’) accepted the beyond-extravagant outpouring (waste?) of perfume that cost a year’s income. Let’s start then with what is written for us:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
A few good practical reminders as to what is truly of value. Maybe if we were to simply quote texts we could add the warnings that are given to the wealthy, the deceit of riches, and the instruction to the rich young ruler to sell everything. It seems wealth is surrounded in signs indicating that there are unexploded mines in that territory so tread carefully.
Although the original sin is not as simple as a critique on what we term ‘consumerism’ the language of ‘I saw, I wanted, I consumed’ indicates that consumerism buys right into that original sin, and if we add the oft-repeated warning against trespassing boundaries in the OT, so that we take what is not ours and denies the opportunity for others to have what was theirs / their share, we can understand the critique of unjust trade, such as we read concerning the king of Tyre or throughout the book of Revelation. Not surprising that the mark of the beast concerns being allowed to buy and to sell.
[I consider that animals in creation speak of that which humanity was to name and symbolically represented organised humanity such as we read of with regard to nations. The beasts (wild animals) were those structures that were not tamed – those organised set-ups that were imperial in spirit, that simply wanted a name for their own glory, etc. Jesus, in the wilderness, brought them even to a subdued place – only possible as the three BIG temptations were resisted: the false economic, political and religious temptations.]
If consumerism in all its forms is what dehumanises, then the opposite seems to me to be contentment. On this there are numerous Scriptures suggesting that is the ‘bag’ that we need to carry all our ‘things’ in:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Timothy 6:6-8).
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
This is not a natural process, Paul says he had to learn to be content. I guess that is pretty much life-long.
We are within the world; we are shaped by what is around us; we cannot be ‘pure’… our feet get dirty… but internal attitudes must be the starting point and then from there make some personal decisions. The woman with her two coins might have done so without any knowledge of what would result, but we have the story. With the story we can act by faith… I like that word ‘faith’… not with knowledge… but having sought to hear God and to make a response – maybe not the right response, but a ‘faith’ response, even a tentative faith response.
We can look at what we have lost, maybe through our own stupidity, but I am not sure that a financial adviser would come to Jesus and use very complimentary words when he found out that the thief was the accountant who could act in a way that exploited the loop holes. (It might be worth pondering if those who govern nations but exploit all kinds of loop holes are the equivalent?) Can what we have lost be redeemed… not into our pockets but into true wealth?
How can we push back against the buying and selling with at least some measure of giving and receiving?
And sow where we want the world to go… Maybe we cannot do it completely, but simple questions such as do I want to put resources into some pension pot that invests into what is profitable (I guess in the current scenario, weapons and arms).
Maybe small partnerships that explore alternatives? Small never changes everything… but maybe starts a movement, and by movement I do not mean simply a practical alternative, after all Jesus did not say you cannot serve money and God, he pushed us to another level – mammon.