Which bag for my money?

Christmas time is here. I am sure there will be many presents given and received. Maybe someone will receive a present of a new wallet / purse to keep all their worldly wealth in. Apparently Scripture seems to be offering two options this Christmas. One that was modelled way back in time set in a garden, and the other proposed by none other than a self confessed ‘chief of sinners’ and called as an apostle.

The two bags are consumerism and contentment.

I have suggested that the original sin is that of consumerism. The garden gives us a very generous setting – eat of all the trees, except for one. Only one tree forbidden! That is minimal restriction, indicating that whatever restrictions we embrace when responding to the call to follow Jesus, the reality is that there is enormous freedom within that call. The language of:

  • I saw
  • I desired
  • I took

is the language of consumerism, and when set in the context of generosity is appalling, yet this is so common. When one has nothing it is understandable that someone should look and desire and seek to take, but when someone has so much there is that drive to obtain the one thing one does not have. I really need… Really need what? A bigger house, a newer car? We need?

The issue with the advertising world is that it suggests a lack that can only be filled with obtaining of something that we do not have. It comes close to robbing us of our dignity and identity only to sell it back at the price of the product. Consumerism does not open the door to growth because it works on the negative value of discontentment. In the garden there was the possibility of great growth provided we were willing to set contentment boundaries. So to the second money wallet / purse.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Phil. 4:11-13).

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Contentment is not easy, and certainly comparison often leading to jealousy does not serve us well. Poverty is not seen as a blessing in Scripture, but to confuse financial prosperity with a sign of God’s blessing is likewise to miss the mark. Passivity is not to be equated to contentment, but thankfulness is probably the best and nearest companion to true contentment.

Contentment is the polar opposite to the consumerist spirit of this age. Maybe this Christmas I might just try one more time to look at the gift contentment might be to my soul.

And as I leave this post, I step back in amazement, realising that I was almost reflective in what I wrote.

Happy Christmas one and all!

Art – what is it worth?

A few years ago I prophesied that ‘when we learn how to value art, the housing market will be re-valued’. I have re-visited that word many times with perplexity. Many artists struggle to make a living; many of the high, high end earners will buy up art as an investment. The ‘art market’ is all over the place. The investment of time, effort and soul that some put in for little return is so wrong; storing art away from public view simply as a means for personal security is also so wrong…

What is the value of art? (And rightly by extension I include ‘the arts’.)

My perplexity I now realise (I got this insight by reading Deb Chapman’s comment on the last post) is that I have been thinking in monetary terms. As we know the vast percentage of money does not exist. 97% in most western economies does not exist, hence it is only confidence and debt that keeps the economy at the levels we find them. I should never have been trying to work out what the word meant money-wise. Driving as we do in our San Lorenzo (died 258AD in Rome) whose gift was to force a revaluation I should never have been trapped into the way of thinking I was in over art.

The value of art

It has to be given its rightful place. It is one of the means to connect heaven to earth. It touches the imagination (and therefore can also be perverted to connect hell and earth) so that speech can be made that releases heaven to earth. God made the trees and saw that they were good… If for a moment I overstate things. God saw what he had made and it impacted him. That is art. We are not talking about a rational function but of an inner transformation through a visual / auditory / kinesthetic experience. How do we value that?

Art challenges how we value everything. This is the challenge San Lorenzo presented to the emperor when he presented him with the blind, sick and poor. ‘These are God’s riches’, he said! The emperor had him killed… but he being dead still speaks. Jesus said that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem, but he fulfilled that. From his time on the place of death is Rome / Babylon / the empire, the place that says we value things and you will not buy nor sell unless you bow to our value system.

Art is subversive. In art we learn how a new economy that is not based on trade, but on giving and receiving.

Now is the time. Yes the winds are adverse but there is a breath of the Spirit behind the arts right now. So vital as we are coming to another economic crisis. The last one was patched over when the body of Christ (the ‘authority carriers’ for the future) opted for an alignment with the familiar, lacking imagination for a different future. When we can only imagine change through getting to the top we have failed to imagine. Art can help us imagine change through the subversion of service and love. We owe you a huge debt, you artists.

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Ephesus – a big shift

I am very grateful for my evangelical roots, coming to faith when I was 16 and experiencing the reality of a ‘personal’ relationship with God. Likewise the impact of the charismatic expression of Christianity, healings, miracles, speaking in tongues and all that goes along with that… absolutely life-changing. Backgrounds are important and I know many of my peers have sought to re-position themselves with regard to those two definitions, as labels cannot ultimately define and certainly should not restrict us. My own trajectory has taken me, not so much to move on from them (post-) but to realise that they sit within a bigger landscape. That landscape being that of stewardship of this creation both to point toward the new creation and to draw that new creation ever closer. The body of Christ, is here to bear witness to that new creation and to create space that humanity can fill as less-than-perfect, yet real stewards of, that new creation.

Ephesus was one of the largest cities of Roman Asia Minor, probably pushing toward 200,000 inhabitants. It was wealthy and as per many cities was religious. Temples abounded but the pride of place went to the Temple of Artemis, it being one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The claim was that Artemis’ image had fallen from the sky and therefore the city had a unique relationship as steward of her presence. (This could be simple myth, or perhaps a meteorite had fallen in that vicinity.) Paul’s time in Ephesus was remarkable and I think incredibly instructive. There are a set of elements that are presented in the biblical texts there that are quite incredible. It is quite hard to know were to start and how to list them, but I will try and follow how Luke records them:

  • He found some believers there whose understanding was limited, but they soon became disciples of Jesus in a much fuller way. They seem to become the core of who Paul worked with, taking them with him when he left the synagogue as his focus.
  • Artemis was worshipped throughout Aisa Minor and Paul set up his base in the hall of Tyrannus. Of course what he taught and spoke of we all interpret through our own lenses. An early version of Alpha courses? A fully fledged Sunday meeting with band in place? I don’t think so!! The result though was manifold, one aspect Luke notes is that what he was proclaiming was heard throughout Asia Minor. Throughout her former domain!
  • This can only indicate that the rule of Artemis was seriously challenged, witnessed to by the insistent cry of the populace reacting to Paul’s message: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians’.
  • Not only was her rule challenged but it was seriously weakened and curtailed. Not only was the message heard but also miracles likewise took place throughout what we might call was formerly her territory. Handkerchiefs were carried to those sick, healings and deliverances occurred. Such was the clear impact that even Jewish exorcists employed the phrase ‘by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims’.
  • Occult books were burned, Ephesus being a centre for witchcraft and magic.
  • The economics of the city were challenged and threatened.
  • The hierarchy of government was deeply touched.

There is something there for all of us. Spiritual warfare – bind and loose those powers, go challenge those demons! Public proclamation; miracles, healing and deliverances. Ephesus certainly sets the bar high for us charismatics… But there is much more. for me too much takes place for Paul’s activity to be simply an ancient version of much of our activities today, none of which I am knocking, simply suggesting that God is raising the bar enormously for us. (I think he raised the bar way high when we consider the cross and the resurrection…)

My plan then is to take some of the above themes and try and develop them over a number of posts.

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Wealth or Money?

‘Money makes the world go round’… and round… and round… or so it seems. Pensioners were out in force this past weekend in most of the cities of Spain protesting. The government has used money from the pension fund on at least 3 occasions to bail out financial institutions, and other businesses the government wished to favour. A while back a woman working in the political scene in Madrid told us that anyone 55 and under should have no expectation of a pension at retirement, the money will be gone. Never enough money in the pot, until it seems it can be found for something more important than those who need it!

A few years back we heard an African preacher (Langton Gatsi) push hard on the difference between creational wealth and money. Money can be here today and gone tomorrow, creational wealth continues. The stock markets can ‘miraculously’ lose money one day and gain it another. This is why in most Western nations the amount of money that is real is about 3%. 97% does not even exist, and by that is not meant that only 3% is in the form of currency, something deeper is implied. 97% are figures on a spreadsheet. A run on the banks would be disastrous, and not surprising when the system survives through debt. Without debt the western economic system collapses.

‘Can’t buy and can’t sell’. So the beast says. Trading with money.

However, there has to be a pragmatism. Jesus even said as much with

I tell you, make friends for yourselves by your use of dishonest wealth, so that, when it fails, they will welcome you to eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9).

We live in a fallen (dirty?) world, and only at the extreme end does there come the call to ‘come of her’. So assuming we engage, there is an inevitability of our ‘feet’ becoming dirty and needing to be washed. Dirty feet seems to be unavoidable, but what must be avoided is having a dirty heart on these matters.

Here then are a few bullet point thoughts:

  • wealth cannot be defined by money. Wealth consists in who we are, wisdom, insight, humility.
  • the counterbalance to ‘buy and sell’ has to be ‘give and receive’. Gift is not blind charity but rooted in grace and mercy it will manifest generosity without any guarantee of return, but is given to make possible a person moving toward their destiny. Trade is based on the so-called ‘bottom line’; gift to release destiny.
  • If we can learn the ‘give and receive’ and seek to implement this maybe we can also ‘buy and sell’ without the numerical mark?

A few days ago I re-posted the material on Judas where I consider there is a strong element of Mammon running throughout that narrative. Jesus was not conquered at any level by Mammon, and the strategic victory takes place in the wilderness where he refuses the offer of ‘the kingdoms of this world’. Then on a daily basis the presence of Judas was where that battle continued. Never once did Jesus put money before Judas, always people took precedence over money. I suggest that en route to breaking the hegemony of religion the refusal to submit to Mammon was a necessary step. Money is neutral but the system locks money up under the spirit of Mammon, the result is the reward of some (but not their release) and an increasing captivity of a majority.

I consider that Jesus conquered the spirit of Mammon decisively. This gave him authority to break open the religious spirit that is so often twinned with Mammon. The Temple in Jerusalem, now had fallen to the extent of being a den of robbers. This did not mean that people could not meet God there, for God can show up in the most dark of places. Even Judas seems to unknowingly act out that severing of the tie between Mammon and religion by throwing the money back in the Temple! It is not his act that makes the break, that is done at the cross but his act is a powerful sign of what has been done at the cross. The lie of Empire continues (make Rome great and the world will be blessed) while the real flow is ever to the centre. Religion of all kinds, theist, polytheist or non-theist, can be seconded to the Imperial power to promote the well-being and continual existence of the Imperial powers. Indeed I suggest religion becomes more important to the Imperial powers at two phases: at a time when there is a push for even greater level of greatness or when there is the fear of losing control.

All three have something in common. They draw a line of who is in / who is acceptable. The language is different but the effect is the same.

Jesus, nor Paul in the ‘secular’ outworking of the Gospel allowed faith to become the support for the status quo, but considered that faith was there to challenge the world order as is. Surely that approach continues to be the call to those of faith?

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Judas to the rescue

I have been rescuing a few posts from years before, and thought that I had done enough when I remembered that I had blogged on Judas Iscariot, so went looking for those posts. I think they are worth rescuing. They were originally posted in March 2009, here they are in slightly modified form.

Why Judas?

WWJD – what would Jesus do? WDJDWD – not quite as catchy, and not likely to take off as a trend, yet I think an important question: why did Judas do what he did?

The conventional reading is of Judas as thoroughly evil, the betrayer from the beginning. And if one is of a Calvinist bent, one predestined to betray Jesus (and implications in that for choice / accountability?). There are always some tough Scriptures that clash against any and all viewpoints, but I suggest that there is another reading of the Judas narratives that fits better. I have long been provoked by the similarities between Peter and Judas. One denied Jesus – and not once but three times; the other betrayed him. One was heartbroken at his own failure – oh, yes, so was the other one and took his own life as a result. One lived to be restored – the other…

Is there really a great difference between the two?

Could it have been different? I think it could have been very different. It is that that gives me hope. Hope because there is a bit of Judas in us all – and dare I say it a little more than a bit. Perhaps also that same Judas ‘spirit’ has infiltrated so much of what we have done as church and our proclamation of the Gospel.

It was my good friend Johnny Barr who was the first one to speak about the connection of Judas’ weakness and the task Jesus gave him. The task: look after the money. The weakness: love of money, to the extent that he was called a thief!

A love of money and looking after the money bag. Great choice for a church treasurer!

Why the choice of treasurer?

What is taking place? I am sure there is a depth to this choice that we do not fully understand but there are at least three key elements:

  • Jesus is showing that he trusts his Father as his supply and that he was not relying even on ‘good stewardship’ for his provision.
  • Jesus is demonstrating that people are always valued higher than money. He is showing that people cannot be valued in monetary terms.
  • Jesus is discipling Judas. His discipleship is not through confronting his weakness, but enabling Judas to look at his weakness in the eye.

There is enough in those three points to bring about significant correction to my approach to life. Prophetic critiques of Israel were centred around two issues: you are not trusting God a) as your Provider nor b) as your Protector. Nothing has shifted at the level of prophetic critique that comes to God’s people.

The actions of Jesus are challenging for anyone professing to be a Christian and involved in earning money. The bottom line for a ‘kingdom’ business can never be that of money. Indeed maximising profits cannot be justified, not even justified by ‘we will have so much more to give’. The means cannot cleanse the final product. Perhaps a key element in business is a strategic plan where and how to lose money. Seems Jesus had that plan. Money is neutral, but the spirit that operates in that realm is not neutral and a radical response is what Jesus showed to that spirit. Of course he had first dealt with it in the wilderness when offered the ‘kingdoms of this world’.

If money is the bottom line, then people will fall by the way, they will become dispensable. If people are the focus money will find its place.

Jesus’ discipling I think reversed so much of what we do. We tend to confront weakness and cover sin. Jesus covered weakness and exposed sin through the person gaining self-perception.

Self-discovery

I have lived my life many times at a level of hiddenness. By that I don’t mean deep hidden sin, but at the level of not facing up to my reactions, such as fears, anxieties, anger or arrogance. Those reaciton that reveal what resides within. Discipleship, following Jesus, allowing him to shape us seems to begin with a healthy dose of self-discovery.

I suggest that there is never a breakthrough to a new level without self-discovery

So back to Judas and money.

Jesus deliberately gave him the money bag. I am sure that Jesus knew exactly about Judas’ weakness. In giving him the finances to look after he was provoking Judas to come to a place of self-discovery, and to go beyond that self-discovery to the place of honesty. He had the opportunity to come to Jesus privately, and say something along the lines of ‘I would rather not look after the money’ (but in Greek or Aramaic of course!). I am sure that Jesus would have been very happy to work with Judas in his weakness, making arrangements for Andrew (for example) to look after the money. Weaknesses, such as Judas had are not an issue to Jesus. They are simply an issue to us, and if not faced up to, that issue will have serious repercussions.

Here then is a root. The weakness is not the problem. Denying the weakness is the problem. Honesty is where it all begins. In the parable of the seed and the four soils, one Gospel writer describes the soil as good and honest soil.

I see the same principle in the thought behind the phrase in the Lord’s prayer: lead us not into temptation. Scripture says God does not tempt, but here we come close to the opposite of that belief. I read the phrase in the prayer as a cry for self-discovery and a level of honesty to what we discover. ‘I am weak, I am liable to go wrong, so I ask that you protect me so that my weaknesses are not exposed so that they are exploited. I humble myself…’

Honesty concerning our weaknesses and the clothing of humility is the path for the disciple. The path way of ‘never would that happen to me’ is not the way for the disciple to travel.

Judas and Peter might be similar in many ways. Maybe they essentially began on the same path but but at the level of honesty there was a divergence right there. We can have a weakness and seek to cover it, or we uncover it / let it be uncovered and find that there is a protection from heaven.

Judas carried with him an unresolved personal weakness. Maybe that weakness was a love of money, but the more serious issue was his inability to be honest about himsel. Self-justification becomes a major hurdle for him and for us.

A vision for the kingdom

Judas (and we, of course) know better. We have a kingdom vision.

Judas has an unresolved inner issue. That is serious but when this unresolved issue connects to a vision of the kingdom, then the problems multiply. Here then is the reading of Judas life that becomes so vital for us. Judas has a vision for the kingdom, for a different world, he connects to Jesus, believes in this Messiah. So far so good, but as time goes on can see things Jesus cannot see. He can clearly see the pathway of peace, of non-violent resistance will never bring in the kingdom, but rather it will crushed. Power, and the exercise of it is important. Getting to the place of influence is obviously the way to go. Judas can see that Jesus’ method and pathway is the pathway to captivity or even to martyrdom (and a futile martyrdom at that). It is not the pathway to confront the evil powers and put the world aright. So…

A plan is hatched. A plan that necessitates Jesus first receiving a gentle but rude awakening. Jesus will have to realise that to succeed he has to step it up a level and exercise his authority where and how it matters. After all, Judas believes in this Messiah. Judas, I suggest, believes he has a strong element of righteous care for the Messiah.

So he arranges for a group of captors to come and he knows how Jesus will respond. He has been with Jesus who has raised the dead, walked unharmed through hostile crowds. This will be the moment, and what a moment it will be. Right there in Jerusalem (God’s centre) with an exposure of God’s enemy (Rome). A climactic moment for the kingdom, for the moving forward of Jesus’ mission. Bring out the soldiers and Jesus will assert himself. Then truly the movement will move into the next phase, the kingdom will advance. Success, rather than failure, will result.

Jesus will take his place, visibly as the promised one. Of course the disciples will also have a place. Maybe even Judas will gain a key place for his catalytic role in bringing about the next phase. Israel will rally round, and on the movement will go from Jerusalem to Samaria, and on to the ends of the earth! Truly Judas to the rescue.

A likely scenario? I think what I present is a lot more plausible and makes more sense of the texts than the simple ‘Judas was evil and wanted to betray Jesus’ interpretation.

Yes, he betrayed Jesus. But maybe so much of what has been done in the name of Jesus, and done to help him, because we know better how the kingdom should come, has also betrayed him. Do we not hear again and again: Jesus, yes; but the church, no.

The kingdom comes, but how it comes is often a mystery. It comes in weakness. It comes when we feel we have been misunderstood, marginalised, and history records, even when we have been martyred. The first resurrection (John in Revelation), the better resurrection (Priscilla in Hebrews) was reserved in Jewish thought for the martyrs. [OK we are not quite sure if Priscilla wrote Hebrews, but then we don’t also know for sure if John, one of the 12, wrote Revelation either!!]

Judas is shocked. He cannot believe that Jesus is captured. Personal weakness and his vision of the kingdom, his ability to know what will help the cause, brings him to the point of despair. However this is not too unlike Peter, who cuts off the ear of the servant, and then goes on to deny Jesus, and to do it three times.

Another opportunity

Peter is given a fresh commission, in spite of his own mistakes and weakness. Three times he is asked if he loves Jesus, three times he is commissioned to look after the sheep. Judas is given no second chance, but had he stayed around? We’ll never know what might have been for him. He simply did not stay around long enough to be freshly commissioned.

His journey began with an unresolved personal weakness.It ended in suicide, but

Before he commits suicide he is delivered of his personal weakness. Money no longer holds him as he throws it back to the religious powers. The death of Jesus is a delivering death, and even Judas is an evidence of this.

He throws it back in the Temple. The place that stood, no longer as a house of prayer for the nations, but as a ‘den of robbers’, a place that stood as a sign of the compromising union of religion and money. What an uneasy truce was there. Religion offered support to the Imperial power, and the Imperial power gave them freedom. The money crashes back in there. A statement of Judas’ new inner freedom, and a prophetic sign that true faith will be freed from the domination of Mammon.

Inner freedom. Don’t be too quick to act Judas, you are free, free, free at last. You were not alone in betraying Jesus. I was there too. But…

He moves quickly, the regret and grief is too strong for him to handle, and takes his own life.

What would have happened if he had hung on another day or two? Maybe he could have been like the husband and wife on the way to Emmaus:

we thought he would restore the kingdom, and he has been crucified, and now it is the third day (my paraphrase).

What would a third day have done for Judas?

Judas never have lived to experience the third day, but he died experiencing the love of Jesus and the delivering power of Jesus. And yes… I do expect to see him in the age to come.

I am too like Judas – maybe this is why he is one of the 12. Maybe too much of Christianity has modelled itself on Judas. Hidden personal weaknesses, after all can we really be expected to be vulnerable? We accumulate knowledge that will help establish the kingdom; and if we do well, if we are those who believe for greatness then we can expect to gain a significant position as we help Jesus out.

But there is always a fresh opportunity.

Good-bye Judas… yet hoping one day I will say ‘Hello, and glad to meet you – I learnt a lot from you.’

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Move that money…

We can make too much of an event, and certainly we can claim too much, particularly if we are of the evang-elastic persuasion. (Count all the claims for salvation made in some places and the entire population has been ‘saved’ a number of times over!) But I think we can also miss the moments on the way when we do not note possible shifts.

I had not planned on writing about Mammon and about the stewarding of finances other than it has bugged me for a while, and after the previous two posts along came two emails to my inbox yesterday. I don’t write this to make great claims simply… come on let’s shift some money that is locked up by Mammon and see a few valleys raised up.

I am also positive about the emails as resources have come from city coffers to those with a kingdom vision – one of the key signs of a city moving to her destiny is that sign. Money always being a biblical sign of a shift. First disturbance, then re-balancing moving to a healthier distribution.

In June 2004 I was led to declare this to a community of believers:

“That incredible favour is on you in this city not just in answers to prayer but in buildings.” Then declared” You are going to see finance flow into you from this city, And I am declaring that whole projects, not part projects, will be paid for out of this city.”

The email was lengthy in content but the highlights in relation to that declaration:

  • Our former site valued at one million pound site was swopped for land valued at three million, plus 5.9 million pounds to rebuild and agreed to cover all our expenses (£1.5m)!! Only God could do this. It makes no sense by anybody else`s maths except the Father’s.
  • The new site has given us reach into one of the poorest areas of the city and into two adjacent schools as well as people of other faiths. We have hosted conferences particularly run by the NHS and The Police and we estimate that in the region of 15,000 people have been at a conference in 20 months!!
  • We are inundated with comments about the different attitude and atmosphere that people meet in the new building and have had many opportunities to share Christ.
  • Then in the past days the city has committed to put another 0.5 million to renovate the top floor of our building in order to accommodate more than 170 Roma Children for whom they have no other space!!

It is hard to work out the significance of all this in the BIG picture of stewarding of finances, but given that we have thought about what part can anyone play when Mammon has such a loud voice… at least let’s keep pushing… and laughing!

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Why not other spheres?

In a recent post from a few days ago I suggested that the media, education and the arts might be best placed to help lead to a new scenario, opening space where believers and non-believers alike can imagine and work to a new future. I might be mistaken, I could be too pessimistic about, for example, politics, business or one of the other aspects of society. I hope I am, but where we are wedded to an-shackled consumerism it is difficult to be optimistic.

2008 supposedly brought about the (banking) crisis, but was it a crisis or a blip? It really depends on who one asks. For those, such as the youth of Spain, a crisis of enormous proportions, for those who received yet again a bonus for their ‘work’ in the economic realm the word ‘crisis’ surely has no meaning.

Consumerism seems to be the root issue with what is wrong. ‘I saw, it was to be desired, I took, I ate…’ Words so profound in ancient culture and if anything more profound today. Entrance to the land that was apportioned, strict laws about debt, restrictions about moving boundaries, and partial resets every 7 years and a major one every 70 years. Enjoy but live within boundaries. An economics that does not stipulate boundaries is not a biblical economics – and in the case of Israel a state enforced boundary.

Suppose you are harvesting your crops. Then do not harvest all the way to the edges of your field. And do not pick up the grain you missed. Do not go over your vineyard a second time. Do not pick up the grapes that have fallen to the ground. Leave them for poor people and outsiders. I am the Lord your God.

A business model that is based on maximising profits is hard to justify biblically. Do not harvest to the edge of the field. From all business ventures there was legislation that gave from those businesses provision for the marginalised and the immigrant. All backed up by God’s authority!

Jesus’ team building had at its heart a strategy of how to lose money. Not some arbitrary loss but set in motion to break any love of money and to give a path of freedom to those who needed it from that. Thankfully even Judas found that path, even if he did not realise it due to being overwhelmed in sorrow.

A new economics is called for biblically, not a simple step of occupying the current ‘mountain’. If to be able to successfully ‘buy and sell’ (trade) is the mark of the beast perhaps there is an economy being called for that is deeper than that, based not on commodity but on life? Everything that flows from a resurrection based faith has to be life-giving.

Money is not evil, the love of money is the (or ‘a’) root of evil. Yet money itself is problematic. How much exists? How can a stock market lose x-billion or gain x-billion in a day? If I lose 20euros I have lost it, someone else finds it and they gain 20euros. The money is not ‘lost’. That makes sense, but money in the big scheme of things does not make sense. Run your private accounts on the less-than-500 year old system that we have and see if you are allowed to become rich or face a prison sentence.

Have someone loan you 1000 euros (it is a loan as you sign to ‘I promise to pay the bearer 1000 euros upon demand’, though legally the loan money is yours to do with what you wish).
From that loan to you, you can now loan someone 900 euros (and charge interest)
Then loan the next person 810 euros, the next 729 euros and so on (this is the banking system…)

After simply 10 times of doing this you will have loaned out 5.5k and still have almost 400euros left.

Imagine doing that over a week… you had nothing, you are loaned 1000 euros and have had enough money to loan out 5.5k. At the beginning of the week you were broke, at the end of the week you are the source for countless others, could invest ‘your’ remaining 400 euros, or have a (or 2 or 3) nice meal(s) out and start again the next week, meanwhile each person who you loaned to will be paying you interest… who would have believed that was possible?

What prompted such a system? The financing of war was the main ingredient. So much war is to do with establishing new boundaries.

Sadly the system is based on debt, and debt is based on how the present relates to the future.

This is what we have… I am not saying the creativity involved is evil, and I am thankful that good / evil are not the only two biblical categories but the very important ‘fallen’ category is there too. Yet the more fallen, or the more persistent something is to lean in that direction the harder it is to see something redemptive enter. Can we see something redemptive enter the economic realm? All things are possible, but this is why I suggested the arts, education and the media might be the areas where we can see a leverage effect take place. And the media maybe against all odds until recently might have been another area for pessimism, so that should give us a faith boost for the economic realm.

To all those who follow Christ whose context is the economic / money / business realm a big respect to you as you wrestle not against flesh and blood, but live out your lives and values in the light of the cross.

Footnote: do not try at a private level to work your finances along the banking loan model. I think prison might be the context that could lead you to.

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A Christian viewpoint?

Last year in the run up to the leadership vote on the Labour Party (UK) Corbyn gave a talk in Liverpool. We have just recently come across it, and the part that interested me was his closing statement about what to call ‘a society where everyone matters, where everyone cares for everyone else.’ He went on to say ‘you can call it anything you like. I prefer to call it socialism, you can call it humanism, humanitarianism. You can call it what you want but a society based on the idea that you respect everybody and care for everybody is actually a happier, more prosperous, more successful, more peaceful society’.

Why did he not add ‘you can call it Christianity’? Was it because he simply chose a few possible names from a long list? Was it because it does not represent a Christian viewpoint? There might be many responses we of faith might give, but I think one of the sources for the Labour Party (John Wesley and Methodism) would probably want to shout loudly that the Jesus-following vision is right there behind what he describes.

Here is the video and the part where I quote and reflect is from 15:30 onwards – the last short segment.

https://youtu.be/HDfuPyuhskc

Scripture has a lot to say about money, the limitations on wealth creation and the like. I am wondering if the loss of ‘family values’ is the result of the seed of the anarchic 60s, or whether there is another source all-together.

In 1976 there was an intervention by the IMF in the economic management in the UK. There began a shift from a previously Keynesian economic concensus to something that has been pursued since then (and not just under Margaret Thatcher) to the cutting loose of the market. There was an abandonment of full-employment as a goal, privatisation was pursued and the free market was deified. (I use that term because I believe it is justifiable biblically. When we have phrases such as the ‘invisible hand of the market’ and a belief that it will self-regulate we are ascribing to a set of beliefs akin to those who were subject to the ‘elemental principals of the universe’ that Paul critiques.)

From 1979 – 1997 we have:

  • the proportion of women aged 18-49 who were married fell from 74% to 69%
  • the proportion co-habiting increased from 11% to 22%
  • births outside marriage more than doubled
  • one parent families increased from 12% to 22%
  • by 1991 there was a divorce in Britain for every 2 marriages
  • the number of households in the UK where there was no-one active in work moved from 6.5% to 19.1%
  • the levels of incarceration also greatly increased.

Is there a connection? Well maybe if we prioritise individual choice over any common good it tends to make relationships also provisional. If choice is the highest value what is the difference between initiating a divorce and trading in a used car? The logic of serving this god is that all relationships also become consumer goods.

The breakup of family – the result of the bad seed of the 60s or the economic freedom advocated and practiced from the 70s onwards? I don’t think we can shout ‘family values’ loudly and bow at the feet of individualism and unfettered pursuit of (a false) prosperity.

Of course we might have beliefs about how a corporate economy should be run, who should be taxed and at what levels. Those of my persuasion will of course have our bias. It is something deeper though I am pushing for. The bankruptcy of the West is becoming ever more visible. I think there is now a slower but deeper revealing of what lies behind the façades. Wesley’s gospel had a strong socal dimension to it. Such a shame if the vision of the future can only have the adjectives socialist, humanist or humanitarian attached to it. The great Human has lived among us. We have been endued by his Spirit. (OK another plug for #3 on my ecclesiology ‘thinking out loud’….)

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