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Theme:
Economy: Old and New

Economy: Old and New

Summary: Sunday, November 24—Friday, November 29, 2019

To understand the Gospel in its purity and in its transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. We have to stop saying “I deserve.” Can we do that? It’s pretty hard . . . unless we’ve experienced infinite mercy and realize that it’s all a gift. (Sunday)

We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected, and meaningful. —Charles Eisenstein (Monday)

The free market consumer ideology has produced a social disorder; people are no longer embedded in a culture that serves the common wealth, the common good. —Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, John McKnight (Tuesday)

Ironically, the success of free enterprise capitalism depends upon moral values, such as honesty and compassion, that are borrowed from elsewhere. Without such supporting values, free enterprise (or any other economic system) would eventually self-destruct through its own excesses. —Arthur Simon (Wednesday)

Rather than scarcity’s myths that tell us that the only way to perceive the world is there’s not enough, more is better, and that’s just the way it is, the truth of sufficiency asserts that there is enough for everyone. Knowing there is enough inspires sharing, collaboration, and contribution. —Lynne Twist and Teresa Baker (Thursday)

Relationships are our most powerful and reliable 401k. I’m not saying I don’t believe in universal health care, social security, or other public services, but I do think Jesus is saying the real security system is how we relate, how we love. (Friday)

 

Practice: Activism as a Spiritual Discipline

Pope Francis often says, “This economy kills.” [1] The divide between the wealthy and the poor in the United States continues to grow. A handful of billionaires are literally “making a killing,” while millions who live below the poverty line are “making a dying,” and very few make a fair living. Just one tangible example: without access to affordable health care, roughly “40 percent of Americans [take] on debt because of medical issues.” [2]

How might we participate in co-creating a new economy that is more equitable for all? Jim Wallis writes, “While it is good to protest, having an alternative is better.” [3] And as you may have heard me say before, “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.” More and more companies are practicing fair trade, reducing waste, using renewable resources, and investing in healthy communities and ecosystems.

The title of Sharif Abdullah’s excellent book, Creating a World that Works for All, is an invitation to us all to participate. In the following excerpt, he invites us to a lifelong practice of the better, the art of being a “Mender” who consciously seeks out opportunities to practice interconnection and interdependence with other beings, which are indeed foundational to any new economy. Abdullah writes:

Being a Mender, an activist for an inclusive society, is a spiritual discipline. We practice a different kind of spirituality: the spirituality of turbulent times [what Barbara Holmes calls crisis contemplation]. Working to alleviate suffering is the way we practice our faith. We try not to act from anger or fear. We act because, in this life we have been given, we believe we can help make things better.

Acting out of compassion to lessen suffering and improve the lives of others is the way we celebrate the Spirit. Knowing that each of our acts, however small, builds the vitality of the Web of Life brings us joy, satisfaction, and power.

In the Spirit-driven model, it doesn’t matter whether a person is “successful” in changing the condition. While practical goals are important, the spiritual goal is to awaken the compassion that lies at the root of all change. “Success” doesn’t mean I’ve saved an endangered species or cleaned up a toxic waste dump or fed hungry children. Success means awakening myself in the Spirit that can help make a better life for others. Success means I have acted in the world as though I were a part of it, not apart from it. Success means becoming conscious of and faithful to my values and to my soul. [4]

We are Menders [when] we believe the Earth and our fellow humans need to be healed from the excesses of exclusivity, and we live our daily lives in accordance with this belief. . . . Our goal is to live as a consciously integral part of a living, conscious, and sacred planet. [5]

You can cultivate Mender skills by developing the following:

  • Your Mender self seeks to transcend the individual self, and desires transcendent experiences.
  • Your Mender self is holistic and ecologic, desires peace and sustainability, and thinks in terms of global realities.
  • Your Mender self desires to practice compassion—for self, others and the more-than-human environment.
  • Your Mender self celebrates and explores its differences from and similarities to The Other. [6]

How will you practice being a Mender today?

References:
[1] Pope Francis outlines key economic struggles in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), his first Apostolic Exhortation (November 24, 2013), http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html, 53-60.

[2] The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Racism, Poverty, the War Economy/Militarism and Our National Morality, https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/audit/, 10.

[3] Jim Wallis, God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (Harper Collins: 2005, 2006), 280.

[4] Sharif Abdullah, Creating a World that Works for All (Berrett-Koehler Publishers: 1999), 151.

[5] Ibid., 122.

[6] Ibid., 131.

For Further Study:
Sharif Abdullah, Creating a World that Works for All (Berrett-Koehler Publishers: 1999)

Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, John McKnight, An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture (John Wiley and Sons, Inc.: 2016)

Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition (Evolver Editions: 2011)

Doug Lynam, From Monk to Money Manager: A Former Monk’s Financial Guide to Becoming a Little Bit Wealthy—and Why That’s Okay (W Publishing Group: 2019)

Richard Rohr, Homilies (September 2019), “Capitalist Economy and Gift Economy” and “Money

Arthur Simon, How Much Is Enough?: Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture (Baker Books: 2003)

Lynne Twist with Teresa Barker, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: 2003, 2017)

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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Economy: Old and New

Finding Security in Relationships
Friday, November 29, 2019

No servant can serve two masters. They will either hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon. —Luke 16:13

I encourage you to read Luke 16:1-13, which provides context for the final verse, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Jesus creates a clear dualism between God and what he calls “mammon.” Mammon was the god of wealth and money, superficiality and success. Jesus says we’ve eventually got to make a conscious choice here.

Most of Jesus’ teaching is what we call nondual, for example: “Let the weeds and the wheat grow together” (Matthew 13:30); “My Father’s sun shines on the good and the bad” (Matthew 5:45). But there are some areas where he’s absolutely dualistic, either/or—usually anything having to with the poor or with money! I believe Jesus is dualistic on these topics because he knows what most of us are otherwise going to do, that most of us will serve mammon. We’re wired to focus on short-term, practical gains. And, of course, money often does solve our short-term problems.

But I hear Jesus saying that a long-term solution is to seek relationship over money. I saw this at work most clearly when I was able to preach in many “poor” countries that don’t have the same kinds of infrastructure and safety nets that so-called “developed” countries do. (At the same time, I must note that much of the poverty around the world is due to exploitation and colonization by industrialized countries. I refuse to romanticize the economic deprivation of much of the world’s population.)

Some folks who may not have a 401k or retirement fund rely on their family and community as insurance. They stick together much better than many financially comfortable people do. When we’re well off, we often don’t need or care about one another. When our very survival depends upon it, we are more likely to love and honor our parents, to treat our children with care and respect—because we need each other. Relationships are our most powerful and reliable 401k. I’m not saying I don’t believe in universal health care, social security, or other public services, but I do think Jesus is saying the real security system is how we relate, how we love. These, he says, are the eternal dwellings that last forever.

In her book, The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist points out that modern science is discovering a similar truth in nature. She writes:

Contrary to those models of Nature as innately, intensely, and almost exclusively competitive, more recent scientific study has illuminated the powerful role of mutuality, synergy, coexistence, and cooperation in the natural world. . . .

The idea that scarcity and competition are just the way it is is no longer even viable science. Respected evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris notes that Nature fosters collaboration and reciprocity. Competition in Nature exists, she says, but it has limits, and the true law of survival is ultimately cooperation. . . .

Sahtouris and others note that contrary to the competitive theme that “survival of the fittest” connotes, a more accurate description would be “survival of the cooperative and collaborative.” [1]

I (Richard) can’t help but wonder what makes it so hard for us to think this way!

References:
[1] Lynne Twist with Teresa Barker, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: 2003, 2017), 152-153.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Money,” Homily (September 22, 2019), https://cac.org/podcasts/money/.

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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Economy: Old and New

The Gift of Sufficiency
Thursday, November 28, 2019
Thanksgiving in the United States

As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. [1]

Lynne Twist, co-founder of The Pachamama Alliance, writes about the reality of abundance, which she calls “sufficiency,” in her excellent book The Soul of Money. The wisdom below might just nudge you over the line. Read with an open mind and heart.

We each have a choice in any setting to step back and let go of the mind-set of scarcity. Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything. . . . Sufficiency isn’t an amount at all. It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough and that we are enough. . . .

When we live in the context of sufficiency, we find a natural freedom and integrity. We engage in life from a sense of our own wholeness rather than a desperate longing to be complete. We feel naturally called to share the resources that flow through our lives—our time, our money, our wisdom, our energy, at whatever level those resources flow—to serve our highest commitments. . . .

Sufficiency as a way of being offers us enormous personal freedom and possibility. Rather than scarcity’s myths that tell us that the only way to perceive the world is there’s not enough, more is better, and that’s just the way it is, the truth of sufficiency asserts that there is enough for everyone. Knowing there is enough inspires sharing, collaboration, and contribution. . . .

Grounded in sufficiency, money’s movement in and out of our life feels natural. We can see that flow as healthy and true, and allow that movement instead of being anxious about it or hoarding. In sufficiency, we recognize and celebrate money’s power for good—our power to do good with it—and we can experience fulfillment in directing the flow toward our highest ideals and commitments. When we perceive the world as one in which there is enough and we are enough to make the world work for everyone everywhere, with no one left out, our money carries that energy and generates relationships and partnerships in which everyone feels able and valued, regardless of their economic circumstances. . . .

No matter how much or how little money you have flowing through your life, when you direct that flow with soulful purpose, you feel wealthy. You feel vibrant and alive when you use your money in a way that represents you, not just as a response to the market economy, but also as an expression of who you are. [2]

On this holiday in the United States, when many of us pause to give thanks, let us consider how we can allow what we have in “sufficiency” to flow from us, no matter what it is—compassion, joy, humility, time, and yes, even money.

References:
[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 184-185.

[2] Adapted from Lynne Twist with Teresa Barker, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life (W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.: 2003, 2017), 74, 75, 87, 103, 119.

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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Economy: Old and New

Moral Capitalism
Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I’m afraid that some readers have given up on this week’s meditations by now, convinced that I hate capitalism and money and that I don’t even believe people should get paid for a hard day’s work. That’s just not true! I’m not going to say capitalism is wrong in all aspects; it does some very real and significant good. But we must be able to offer an honest critique of a system if we want to find a better way forward. In this excerpt, Arthur Simon, a Lutheran minister, deals fairly with capitalism, praising what it does well and encouraging us—especially those of us with power and privilege—to do better. 

For all the good it can do, . . . free enterprise capitalism has grave defects. . . . Capitalism stimulates and thrives on our human desire to possess more, a desire that instinctively gravitates toward greed, which tends to create disparities that make some rich, while leaving many impoverished. It is good at generating wealth, not so good at spreading it around. . . . There is nothing wrong with profit if it is obtained honestly and justly and used in a godly way. But the profit motive appeals to our acquisitive nature. It nourishes greed and can make us callous to the suffering of others. In short, the genius of free enterprise is also its central problem.

Left to its own devices, free enterprise capitalism would ruin the environment and let people starve. As a result, no nation leaves free enterprise entirely on its own. Every country will devise policies that, at least to some extent, guide free enterprise toward serving the wider public good, in this way acknowledging that while free enterprise may be a remarkable engine for driving economic growth, an engine is not the same as a steering wheel.

Every one of the fifty United States offers free public education and requires school attendance at least through the age of sixteen. Despite shortcomings, that policy helps to equalize opportunity and prepare young people to participate productively in the U.S. economy. By itself, free enterprise would not do this. But the public has decided to spread some of its wealth to all citizens through education, to the benefit of everyone, including private enterprise, which is rewarded with better trained and more innovative workers and leaders. . . .

Ironically, the success of free enterprise capitalism depends upon moral values, such as honesty and compassion, that are borrowed from elsewhere. Without such supporting values, free enterprise (or any other economic system) would eventually self-destruct through its own excesses.

To work its magic for the economy, free enterprise needs plenty of room and not too many restraints. But to achieve public justice, free enterprise, like the urge to consume, needs to be tamed and guided. That requires a delicate balance, one that is endlessly debated, but which touches the central nerve of justice—not justice as an abstract idea, but as basic opportunity for children and others whose lives frequently hang in the balance.

That kind of justice is an affair for the soul for each of us. But people of means have a special obligation before God to ensure justice for those who are poor and vulnerable. With greater affluence comes corresponding responsibility to make sure that a system that has been generous to oneself is also generous to others.

Reflecting on Simon’s message, consider: How do Gospel values like justice, compassion, and generosity make their way into your economic decisions? Do they carry the same weight as your desire for material things?

References:
Arthur Simon, How Much Is Enough?: Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture (Baker Books: 2003), 18, 104-105.

I also highly recommend Doug Lynam’s From Monk to Money Manager (W Publishing Group: 2019), another fine book on this subject that seeks to be fair to both sides of the argument; the author is a friend of mine who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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Economy: Old and New

Departing the Consumer Culture
Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Authors and scholars Peter Block, John McKnight, and Walter Brueggemann partnered to write An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture, which describes the shifts in thinking that could create a post-consumer economy. It sounds a lot like the Gospel to me.

Economic systems based on competition, scarcity, and acquisitiveness have become more than a question of economics; they have become the kingdom within which we dwell. That way of thinking invades our social order, our ways of being together, and what we value. It replicates the kingdom of ancient Egypt, Pharaoh’s kingdom. It produces a consumer culture that centralizes wealth and power and leaves the rest wanting what the beneficiaries of the system have.

We invite you to a journey of departure from this consumer culture. We ask you to imagine an alternative set of economic beliefs that have the capacity to evoke a culture where poverty, violence, and shrinking well-being are not inevitable—a culture in which the social order produces enough for all. . . . This departure into another kingdom might be closer to the reality of our nature and what works best for our humanity. . . .

Luckily, the exodus from a consumer, globalized culture into a neighborly, localized communal and cooperative culture has begun. We join the chorus of other agents of the alternative economy: food hubs, cooperative and social enterprises, the climate change activists, health activists, [etc.]. . . .

Neighborliness means that our well-being and what really matters is close at hand and can be locally constructed or produced. In this modern time, neighborliness is considered quaint and nostalgic. To make neighborliness the center of our social order requires an act of imagination. It is counter-cultural. It is also a form of social interaction that is built on a covenant that serves the common good. . . .

The consumer and market authority we live within violates neighborly relations by stratifying social power according to money and its attendants—privilege, competition, self-interest, entitlement, surplus. The dominant modes of current social relationships fend off neighborliness at all cost, and at great cost.

The [current] market ideology says that neighborly relationships are no longer required. That we are best ordered by commercializing all we can. That what we needed from neighbors can be obtained anywhere. . . . The major early step toward the modern cultural reality was “enclosure,” the privatizing of the common land. . . . Every human endeavor is monetized. . . . When a person’s effort was converted to wage earner, a person became an object. . . .

We moved away from the neighbor as a source of culture, memory, sense of place, and livelihood. . . . The casualty was a loss of a sense of the commons. What is at stake in the renewal of neighborliness is the restoration of the commons. [1] The free market consumer ideology has produced a social disorder; people are no longer embedded in a culture that serves the common wealth, the common good.

References:
[1] “The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons)

Adapted from Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, John McKnight, An Other Kingdom: Departing the Consumer Culture (John Wiley and Sons, Inc.: 2016), xiv, xviii-xix.

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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Economy: Old and New

Making Do with More
Monday, November 25, 2019

Charles Eisenstein is a fascinating public speaker, author, and advocate for gift economies. At a rather young age, he walked away from a thriving business career, recognizing that our cultural models of success simply weren’t working for him. Drawing on his background in business, mathematics, philosophy, and spirituality, he turned his attention to some of the largest problems facing the world today, including climate change. Here he writes of a future in which material limitation actually delivers a greater sense of wealth: 

A world without weapons, without McMansions in sprawling suburbs, without mountains of unnecessary packaging, without giant mechanized monofarms, without energy-hogging big-box stores, without electronic billboards, without endless piles of throw-away junk, without the overconsumption of consumer goods no one really needs is not an impoverished world. I disagree with those environmentalists who say we are going to have to make do with less. In fact, we are going to make do with more: more beauty, more community, more fulfillment, more art, more music, and material objects that are fewer in number but superior in utility and aesthetics. . . .

Part of the healing that a sacred economy represents is the healing of the divide we have created between spirit and matter. In keeping with the sacredness of all things, I advocate an embrace, not an eschewing, of materialism. I think we will love our things more and not less. We will treasure our material possessions, honor where they came from and where they will go. . . . The cheapness of our things is part of their devaluation, casting us into a cheap world where everything is generic and expendable. . . .

Put succinctly, the essential need that goes unmet today, the fundamental need that takes a thousand forms, is the need for the sacred—the experience of uniqueness and connectedness. . . .

We are starving for spiritual nourishment. We are starving for a life that is personal, connected, and meaningful. By choice, that is where we will direct our energy. When we do so, community will arise anew because this spiritual nourishment can only come to us as a gift, as part of a web of gifts in which we participate as giver and receiver. . . .

When I use the word spiritual, I am not contradistinguishing it from the material. I have little patience with any philosophy or religion that seeks to transcend the material realm. Indeed, the separation of the spiritual from the material is instrumental in our heinous treatment of the material world. So when I speak of meeting our spiritual needs, it is not to keep cranking out the cheap, generic, planet-killing stuff while we meditate, pray, and prattle on about angels, spirit, and God. It is to treat relationship, circulation, and material life itself as sacred. Because they are.

As I often say, when it is true, it is true everywhere, even in economics. In my opinion, Eisenstein seems to be describing the reality of the Universal Christ, though I do not even know if he is a Christian. There are so many insights worth sharing when we recognize that we live in a Christ-soaked world.

Reference:
Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition (Evolver Editions: 2011), 27-28, 425-426.

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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Economy: Old and New

The Gospel Economy
Sunday, November 24, 2019

Jesus said to the host who had invited him, “When you hold a lunch or dinner . . . invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.” —Luke 14:12-14

I’d like to begin this week’s meditations by contrasting two economies or worldviews. The first economy is capitalism, which is based on quid pro quo, reward and punishment thinking, and a retributive notion of justice. This much service or this much product requires this much payment or this much reward. It soon becomes the entire (and I do mean entire!) frame for all of life, our fundamental relationships (even marriage and children), basic self-image (“I deserve; you owe me; or I will be good and generous if it helps me, too”), and a faulty foundation for our relationship with God.

We’ve got to admit, this system of exchange seems reasonable to almost everybody today. And if we’re honest, it makes sense to us, too. It just seems fair. The only trouble is, Jesus doesn’t believe it at all, and he’s supposed to be our spiritual teacher. This might just be at the heart of what we mean by real conversion to the Gospel worldview, although few seem to have recognized this.

Let’s contrast this “meritocracy,” punishment/reward economy—basic capitalism which we in the United States all drink in with our mother’s milk—with what Jesus presents, which I’m going to call a gift economy. [1] In a gift economy, there is no equivalence between what we give and how much we get. Now I know we’re all squirming. We don’t like it, because we feel we’ve worked hard to get to our wonderful middle-class positions or wherever we are. We feel we have rights.

I admit that this position satisfies the logical mind. At the same time, if we call ourselves Christians, we have to deal with the actual Gospel. Now the only way we can do the great turnaround and understand this is if we’ve lived through at least one experience of being given to without earning. It’s called forgiveness, unconditional love, and mercy. If we’ve never experienced unearned, undeserved love, we will stay in the capitalist worldview where 2 + 2 = 4. I put in my 2, I get my 2 back. But we still remain very unsure, if not angry, about any free health care (physical, mental, or spiritual) or even free education, even though these benefits can be seen as natural human rights that support and sustain peoples’ humanity. All too often, we only want people like us to get free health care and education and bail outs.

Brothers and sisters, you and I don’t “deserve” anything, anything. It’s all a gift. But until we begin to live in the kingdom of God instead of the kingdoms of this world, we think, as most Christians do, exactly like the world. We like the world of seemingly logical equations. Basically, to understand the Gospel in its purity and in its transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. We have to stop saying “I deserve and deciding who does not deserve. None of us “deserve”! Can we do that? It’s pretty hard . . . unless we’ve experienced infinite mercy and realize that it’s all a gift.

References:
[1] “A gift economy, gift culture, or gift exchange is a mode of exchange where valuables are not traded or sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards. This contrasts with a barter economy or a market economy, where goods and services are primarily exchanged for value received. Social norms and customs govern gift exchange.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy)

Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Capitalist Economy and Gift Economy,” Homily (September 1, 2019), https://cac.org/podcasts/capitalist-economy-and-gift-economy/.

Image credit: Le Denier de la Veuve (The Widow’s Mite) (detail), James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: As long as we operate inside any scarcity model, there will never be enough God or grace to go around. Jesus came to undo our notions of scarcity and tip us over into a worldview of absolute abundance. The Gospel reveals a divine world of infinity, a worldview of enough and more than enough. The Christian word for this undeserved abundance is “grace.” It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. —Richard Rohr
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