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Faith, Economics, and the Trinity

February 6th, 2009 by Jason · 2 Comments

Our church has a class coming up tomorrow that we’ve entitled Faith & Economics. It’ll be a workshop on everything from budgeting to getting out of debt to investing as stewardship. Lots of good, hands-on stuff. Obviously, part of the inspiration for putting on this class was the current economic meltdown and wanting to provide peeps in our church, especially those without jobs or on the edge, with practical tools. However, we were also motivated by a conviction that money, or better, the god of Mammon, is increasingly powerful our culture. I think the idea of the class is great, but in the back of my mind there’s been a nagging question: what, specifically, is the faith part, the Christian foundation, of a class on faith and economics? Or, more cynically: how is a class like this different from a class of good philanthropists who want to use their money in the most effective manner? Which is not a bad thing, but what’s different?

When I first started trying to answer this question I ran through some of the many verses that talk about money, debt (and it’s Biblical sister: usury), etc. But I don’t want to just slap a few verses on the title and say that’s what makes it Christian. The more I thought about it, I wanted to root what we’ll be talking about not primarily in what God says, but in who God is. Specifically, the God who is Father, Son, and Spirit. In other words, thinking a bit about how the trinitarian nature of God gives rise to a new way of relating to money.

God is the Father who creates and sustains humans. The Father has created me, you, and our neighbors in the image of God which means that as we are discerning how to save, give, and earn we do it in the knowledge that those affected are our brothers and sisters, not just a nameless humanity that we try to save to appease our guilt. God is the Father who sustains us by sending rain to refresh us, causes the sun to rise each day to feed us, and provides clothing and shelter that the lilies and ravens would envy.

God is the Son who gives us a concrete example of what it looks like to live out the upside-down economy of God. The Son literally fleshes out a new way of doing economics where the world’s economic system of “might makes right” and capitalism’s mandate that we must heed our greed are shown to be bankrupt. The Son not only demonstrates what it looks like, but offers us healing from our propensity to twist our good desires for security and significance into a miserable and addictive love of Mammon.

God is the Spirit who enables us to live out Jesus’ example by forming us into a body and gifting that body with the talents and abilities needed in God’s economy. That’s why we’re not only talking about the big picture ideas in the class, but also learning from others some concrete ways to make it happen. I’m increasingly convicted that great ideas about coming alongside the poor, stewarding our money wisely, and so forth will remain at the level of lofty ideas unless we bust out the spreadsheets, the credit card bills, and the income stubs, and learn from those in our community whom the Spirit has gifted to help us put feet to our faith.

Jubilee, usury, true religion of caring for the orphans and widows, store up your treasure in heaven, the worker deserves their pay, give everything away and follow me. These themes and verses can not only start to feel in tension, but also impossible – one more set of rules to follow from a lawgiver God. Remembering who it is that speaks these words, God the Father, Son, and Spirit, reminds us that this new economy of God is not so much an obligation, but the work of a creative, healing, and empowering God who is in the business of redeeming all things. Even our wallets.

Tags: theology

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Kathy Peterson // Feb 21, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Dear Jason,

    I could not sleep last night and was praying “Lord, how, where, when (etc) does one break free of the clutches of Babylon and the slavery/captivity (long time hidden for what it was) that has been initiated, promoted, prospered, and perpetuated by this economy of currency, interest, taxation, usery, and robbery; this system under the Federal Reserve and banking lords of the world and those elites who benefit from the system? Its unconstitutional and against the Word of God. Yes, it is tragic to consider the extent of usery and the subsequent catastrophe of many who have been blinded and now will suffer. So as I was laying awake I was alerted to the thought of looking on the web to see if there were any others out there who were thinking like me or forming Christian communities and trying to separate from dependence on the current system. Upon doing a search I came to your article and some other wonderful writing, too. Yours just happened to have the greatest impact upon me.

    Wow and praise be to God for your fine, accurate, inspiring, and wise article! I like your depiction of the Father, Son, and Spirit! It is the echo and expression of so much of what’s been in the hearts and minds my family and I. In fact, we are working on developing alternative ways for people who are like minded, don’t favor the current system of mammon, and desire to do business with each other and survive outside of the corrupt current system. We are looking for ways to help the homeless and hungry. Your writing reminds me much of the writing of my oldest son, Daniel, who is the primary designer of what he hopes will set many people free from entire dependence on our current currency as the ‘only resource and means’.

    The plans Daniel is developing center around potentially large community garden settings (but not necessarily large) that have means (not dependent on fuel oil) to run even through the winter and which would have various offshoots in function. It is, in fact, a bigger plan than just a garden and can function as a sustainable and energy efficient operation and community fellowship place. The setting would utilize trade and barter as well as currency, so no interested person would be left out due to ‘lack of funds.’ In addition, those from the setting (hopefully these situations can emerge in many communities) can also do transactions in trade and barter with other businesses, individuals, and food type organizations. Little by little we citizens can become increasingly less dependent upon our government, banks, and the system of business which the powers that be have convinced us is the ‘only’ one available. There is only one real power that does ‘BE’ and it is the God of the universe and all creation, the giver of all good gifts. As humans with God given talents and abilities we the people are the resources and have the resources, and there is a true value behind what each of us has to contribute. The same cannot be said for our American dollar which is no more than a piece of paper that represents debt, rather than any real value. As the vision and plan unfolds (please pray for favor and success) more and more it could getting exciting Jason. I wish you and Daniel could communicate. I think you would find some ‘practical tools’ (your words) in the designs and ideas he’s been developing. Likewise, I’m sure you and your contacts have much wisdom to offer people like ourselves who want to make a difference and offer hope to the masses of despairing people. Your article is awesome! Totally awesome!! The Lord directed me to it in the wee hours of the morning (2:30 am). It is so refreshing to read the writing of yourself, and Isaac, and some of the other articles I read.

    Like sheep led to the slaughter people have been cunningly led into a Babylonian type captivity. Even many shepherds of believers have been deceived and blinded. And in many ways we have sinned by not standing firmly on issues we should have stood on. So there is appropriate judgment taking place, for the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. Discipline is because of God’s love, yet His mercies are new every morning! There is a wake up call and God is raising up those who’ve not been sold on the system or its values to alert and lead others out of the wilderness, people like you. As dark and foreboding as this season in time is, we also must remember that light shines all the brighter when contrasted with darkness. As the darkness becomes darker the light of the Lord’s truth and ways will be much more evident. Like the famous saying of a classic book “it was the worst of times and the best of times.” (Something like that.) I do believe that we’ll also find that there are many more people that have feared the Lord and been uncomfortable in our current economy for years. Elijah thought he was one of a kind and so alone when he was having a pity party and the Lord reminded him there were many others who had not bowed their knee to the enemy. Now is the season when God’s Holy Spirit can gather together his people in a common purpose to lead people out of the wilderness, as Moses did. At least these are some of the hopeful things which cross my mind as my own life and finances have a dismal appearance. It is always darkest just before the dawn.

    Last night before coming to your web article I had prayed, “Heavenly Father, how does one avoid participating in a system we don’t believe in, but one that seems to be the only one made available to us? “ How does one ‘come out of her, My people” when we do not inwardly hold to the values of this world, but presently find no way to survive aside from the system? How does one ‘be in the world, but not of it”?–as stated by Jesus, when the system demands so, so much subjection from us just to obtain the most necessary basics (shelter, food, etc) I began to think…..are there any Christians out there who live in community, who seek to follow a better way that operates under God’s economy and principles? I could not sleep and my mind drifted to looking on the web to check into ‘Christian communities.” I’m so glad and inspired by finding your article. I’m grateful I was awake to find the web site you wrote on.
    My family and I live in Minnesota. Do you know of any community minded people here? Where are you and your church located?
    Many Blessings to you from your sister, Kathy

  • 2 Jason // Feb 23, 2009 at 9:35 am

    @kathy: Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your idea of how you and your family are planning to live out the “upside-down” economics. Even if it’s a small farm, it’s a witness to the larger church of the different way of life God calls us to, similar to the monastics of previous ages. I’m in Seattle, so I don’t know of anything in Minnesota. However, you may want to see if you could meet up with some of our Amish brothers and sisters as they’ve been doing this for a while. Also, a site that I’ve found helpful is called the Sabbath Economics Collaborative. I don’t know how often their meetings are, but they have a great list of resources, as well as some articles online, on doing economics differently: http://www.sabbatheconomics.org/content/page.php?section=1