God’s Economy (and ours)

Why should I fear evil days

When my foes’ sin surrounds;

Even those who trust their wealth,

who boast as it abounds?

No man can by any means,

Pay to God his ransom price;

For the purchase of his soul

No payment can suffice.

(from “Hear This All Earth’s Nations” – based on Psalm 49; The Book of Psalms for Worship)

The world’s economy is based (however loosely) on an exchange of “goods” and “services”.  The more desired goods we can produce, the more valued services we can provide, the greater wealth we can accumulate.

A purely “capitalist” philosophy holds that if this exchange is allowed to freely flow, and everyone is given the opportunity to produce as many goods, to provide as many services as s/he can, all will be as it should be.

A “socialist” critique of such a free market contends that greed infects the human heart such that a few wind up feasting on hoarded riches while many others are left to starve as they scramble for the scraps that fall from the table.  Wealth need be redistributed justly, according to a socialist, so that all might live freely.

I do not count myself either a capitalist or a socialist, but I have benefited from both philosophies.  For most of my adult life, I provided pastoral services, steadily rising through the ranks of my profession until I was “earning” a comparatively lucrative salary.  Then, when I went on disability for Bipolar disorder, I became a beneficiary of the “safety net” our system provides for those deemed unable to earn a sufficient wage.

Given what I have witnessed in my life, I have mixed feelings about what method is used both to accumulate wealth and to share resources.  On the one hand, crass capitalism consumes creation as short-term gain is favored over long-term investment.  On the other hand, steadfast socialism skews the scales and fosters debilitating learned dependency.

The good news for us is this.  God is not a capitalist.  Neither is God a socialist. What is God’s economic philosophy? In God, the world’s values are redefined.  “Goods” are not products we produce, but virtues we display.  “Services” are not deeds that meet desires, but loving acts that meet needs.

The best example of God’s goods and services is found in the life of Jesus.  Jesus displayed such “goods” as compassion when they brought to him a woman caught in adultery, and righteous anger when he found money changers perverted prayer in the temple.  Jesus performed such “services” as healing for a Samaritan woman pleading for recognition and teaching all who would listen about the nature of God’s kingdom.

The world’s economy is based heavily on consumer spending.  We are taught from the cradle to the grave to spend first (even if it means going into debt), then frantically scramble to earn enough to pay off our debts.  There is little or no room left over for giving.

In God’s economy, we are provided essential resources and taught to give the first and best and live simply on the rest.

Recently, I read a story on my friend Leanne Sypes’blog about a young African artist named Phumlani Mtabe who has a dream to open an art school in his village.  He’s been working hard and steadily to move toward this dream.  Tragically, a fire struck and he lost everything.  Phumlani writes –

We have to start from the beginning, rebuilding for a new hope that one day God will listen and hear our prayers. 

Reading this was, for me, an answer to prayer.  I’ve been looking for a way I might make an investment beyond my tithe to support God at work in the world beyond my small community.  I have contacted Phumlani and his art teacher and hope to help (in whatever way I can) to invest in his dream.

Personally, I would much rather invest my resources in dreams like Phumlani’s than in Big Macs at McDonald’s, coffees at the convenience store, cable television, even books from Amazon I could readily borrow from the library.

How about you?

Phumlani Art

6 thoughts on “God’s Economy (and ours)

  1. “In God’s economy, we are provided essential resources and taught to give the first and best and live simply on the rest.” God’s way seems so much easier… and life giving. Consumerism, capitalism, socialism, whateverelse-ism. I get so confused and overwhelmed in trying to “pick” a side and determining where to invest my resources so we can all live happily ever after. It seems like we aren’t ever totally satisfied (or at least not for very long).
    But here, you’ve pointed out to me that it’s not that complicated:

    “In God, the world’s values are redefined. “Goods” are not products we produce, but virtues we display. “Services” are not deeds that meet desires, but loving acts that meet needs.”

    For some reason this just brings me great relief, Tony. All I need to do is invest in living my best and loving–serve those who need so they can live in a way that allows them to do the same. I joined others this weekend in investing in Phumlani and his dreams for Kayamandi which will in turn allow the people of Kayamandi do the same for others… thus helping give life and growth to God’s economy. A small act of service for the benefit of filling a need that thereby ignites life for others is far more sustainable than producing another fancy product (no matter how creative) for the benefit of… convenience? If we live simply upon what remains after we give the first and the best, there is no need to perpetually satisfy the need for convenience… or whatever it is we’re always trying to solve with our consumer products.Our economics don’t seem very sustainable… God’s do, though.

    Anyway, I apologize if this comment seems random and a bit disjointed… that happens when I am pondering “out loud.”

    • Not random or disjointed at all. Very well put.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, and for the inspiration to invest in Phumlani’s dream for the village of Kayamandi. I pray God continue to bless it for the best.

  2. Of all the lessons my father taught me, perhaps the one I most appreciate is the absolute conviction that one cannot out-give God, and that God will always provide for those who put Him first. This means that you do things other people might call impractical, such as tithing from a salary that is below what most people would deem a living wage. My husband shares this conviction and no matter how little we had in the early years, we found that if one gives first and never looks at the money purposed for giving, one never misses it. I have been teased for being overly frugal but I have little need to buy books I can get at the library, or coffee and tea in restaurants when I can make it at home, or new fashions when my basic wardrobe is still comfortable and serviceable. What I’m trying to say is, while others might see me as depriving or sacrificing, I feel my life is full and abundant, and giving is one of our greatest blessings and privileges. I hope that doesn’t sound sanctimonious because it really is a better, happier way to live. More is never enough when it comes to going after material possessions. I really believe that.

  3. one cannot out-give God, and that God will always provide for those who put Him first I’ve learnt that, but it took me a long time to do so. I raised my children on my own from the time they were 1, 3, and 5 years old. I had no job and no parents to fall back on. I decided I couldn’t afford to tithe from my single parent payment. We were always scraping to make ends meet; to have enough food. God was faithful all through those years even though I wasn’t. When I started to honour God with my tithe, we never went without and even had money to help others. Now that my children have grown up and left home and I’ve retired from the workforce due to ill health, my only income now is a disability pension. I still tithe and I still have enough to give when family or friends are in need.
    I know beyond a shadow of a doubt…you cannot out give God. I’ve also learnt, “obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.”

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