Archive for the ‘Economics’ Tag

The Good News Of Restorative Justice!

restorative justice

 In this Gospel message entitled “THE GOOD NEWS OF RESTORATIVE JUSTICE!” guest speaker, Mako Nagasawa, Proclaims the GOOD NEWS of The God Revealed in Jesus Christ at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore! Mako proclaims God’s vision for GENEROUS giving and the importance of Jesus giving us A NEW HUMANITY, EMPOWERING US to bring more of His JUSTICE and LOVE into this world!

In this message we understand that:

  • God has a GREAT vision for EVERY kind of relationship including Economic and Political relationships, and involving Historic Injustice. He has been very specific with us, biblically, about what that should look like on the lending and borrowing of money by fostering good banking practices, and opposing bad banking practices!
  • Jesus took OUR HUMANITY to himself and, by His Spirit, shares with us a new humanity that filters out the toxins in us such as fear, jealousy,and grief, enabling us to reach out to the poor in mercy, forgiving others their debts even as we have been forgiven our debts from God our Father.
  • We are called to manifest the LOVE and RELATIONSHIP that exists within the TRIUNE GOD, and extend THAT kind of love to others; that love looks like the Father stirring up in us a deep concern and right way about how to care for each other in our communities and through the difficult times many people have fallen into!

Check out this practically challenging message!


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Will Heaven Be Communist?

DollarWhen I say communist, I don’t mean the totalitarian nightmare of the 20th century. I mean the seemingly naive, idealistic 19th century philosophy of communal society that said “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

Before you jump to any conclusions consider the following questions:

  • Do you think we will have money in heaven?
  • Will good money managers live in a nicer part of heaven than bad money managers?
  • Will the life of the world to come be a life of “haves” and “have nots”?

It seems to me that the answer to these questions is “no”. It’s no wonder that Jesus was so ambivalent about money and at times was quite negative about the accumulation of wealth. His vision was focused on what is to come – on what is eternal – and the accumulation of wealth just isn’t something that has much of a future. Jesus gives us a vision of the kingdom of heaven in which human society is beyond money, beyond wealth accumulation, and beyond a brokenness in which a few have too much and many do not have enough (consider, for example, the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.)

Now here’s the really weird part: Jesus said that, in him, this Kingdom of God has come near to us. In some sense we are already living this life and called to change our minds (repent) and begin living in anticipation of the fullness of the coming of this new world. And that raises a final question:

If we believe all this then how should we be living now?

~ Jonathan Stepp

Trinitarian Economics

Traditional economic theory is all about how people compete for scarce resources, as if Me-Getting-What-I-Want is the center of the universe.  But what if the center of the universe is occupied by something (or Someone) else?

The word “economy” has beautiful roots in Greek, evoking the image of making a home (Greek: oikos) for yourself and your family.  The truest economics class you ever took was Home Ec.  Because the reality of economics begins and ends in the Triune life—Jesus, his Dad, and their Spirit, each one being “at home” in each other’s life, and each one working to make himself a home for the others.

But it doesn’t stop there.  The Triune Home-Making decided to open itself, to make itself the home of others.  There were no “others” yet, so Father, Son and Spirit made some.  They began the hard work of including finite creatures into their infinite life.  We made messes on their floor.  We stuck things into our mouths that weren’t food.  We were reluctant to share our toys with each other.  Housebreaking us was a messy, painful business for the Triune persons.  They re-arranged their life in unthinkable ways, so that they could live in ways that are hospitable to us.  In short, they made their shared life into a home for us.  And it was their joy to do it.

This is the ground and grammar of economics.  What does that say about human economic life, which lives and moves and has its being within the Triune economy?  Some preliminary observations and questions:

  • Economics is primarily about persons and their relationships.
  • The point of economics is hospitality.
  • Hospitality is primarily about self-giving, and only secondarily about stuff-giving.
  • The giving of goods and services is secondary, not primary.
  • Hospitality is costly to the giver; it involves sacrifice.
  • It is up to the giver to decide if the cost is worth paying.
  • Hospitality is other-centered.
  • Hospitality is motivated by love.
  • Hospitality is the driver of creativity and innovation.
  • At the most fundamental level, economic relationships are mutual.  They involve giving AND receiving.
  • At the most fundamental level, economic relationships are free.   They are covenantal rather than contractual.
  • At the most fundamental level, economic transactions are gifts.  Whatever else buying-and-selling is, it is a form of gift exchange.
  • The ultimate product of economic activity is joy.
  • The Triune economy is incarnate in the earthly human economy.  The Triune mutual gift-giving is present (in varying degrees of pleasure and pain) in every human economic transaction.
  • The earthly human economy involves clouded, darkened minds that see reality with less than perfect clarity.
  • Therefore, the human economy involves fear, dishonesty, and malice.
  • It is fitting and good for humans to protect themselves from economic predators.
  • A contract is a tool for clarifying economic transactions and making people safe from predation within the system.
  • Can a covenantal relationship have contracts in it?  In other words, can my friend also be my customer?  I don’t see why not.
  • What does it mean for a piece of creation to become my “property”?
  • Or to put it another way, how does a piece of creation come under my stewardship?
  • Is poor stewardship a form of theft (For example, if I poison a well, am I robbing future generations)?
  • If poor stewardship is theft, what role does human government have in enforcing basic standards of stewardship?
  • In what ways is my neighbor’s well-being under my stewardship?  In what ways is it not?

~ John Stonecypher

Rich People Entering the Kingdom

Why does Jesus say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God?

First of all, let’s dispense with the idea that there is some way to explain away Jesus’ statement in Matt. 19:23-24. The excuses that say the “eye of a needle” was a gate in Jerusalem, and other such historical/grammatical claptrap, are just an effort to explain away another saying of Jesus that runs against the grain of our culture.

Second of all, let’s focus on who Jesus is as the union of the Trinity and humanity. In Jesus the selfless, sharing life of the Trinity has entered into permanent relationship with humanity and humanity has been adopted into the selfless, sharing life of the Trinity (Eph. 1:5.)

So, rich and poor, all of us are one new humanity in Christ (Eph. 2:15).

When Jesus says “enter the Kingdom” he doesn’t mean “get yourselves adopted as children of the Father and make atonement for your sins.” Jesus himself is humanity’s adoption and the atonement for our sins. We don’t make ourselves into children of the Father, Jesus has made us all forgiven children of the Father (Rom 5:18, Col. 1:20).

Entering the Kingdom means thinking and acting like who we really are: the children of the Father in Jesus.

To enter the Kingdom is stop believing that you aren’t a child of the Father, included in Jesus, and to begin believing that you are included. To enter the Kingdom is to stop living a life of selfishness and isolation and begin to live in harmony with the selfless sharing of the Trinitarian Life in which Jesus has included you.

And that’s where it gets tough for us when we are rich.

Money gives us the power to isolate ourselves from people and community. Money gives us the power to live according to our own desires without having to let the selflessness of the Holy Spirit flow through us in relationship with others. In short, money gives us the power to perpetuate the self-delusion that we are little gods who are not included in the Triune Life and do not need the communion that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit share with each other and with the whole creation.

Here are a few examples:

  • A rich person who doesn’t like sharing a public beach with crowds of people can buy his own beach (or island), just for him and his fellow rich people. He doesn’t have to learn to share his life with his community.
  • A rich person can move from relationship to relationship, dating, marrying, and divorcing, as he wants to because he can afford all the costs that come with serial polygamy. He doesn’t have to learn to live in committed relationship even when it isn’t going well.
  • A rich person who doesn’t like sharing a flight with a hundred other passengers can rent or buy a private jet. He doesn’t have to learn to reduce his impact on the environment by sharing transportation.

And these examples just focus on our lifestyle in North America, Europe, and Australia. In comparison to the world at large even those we call “poor” in North America are actually “rich.” For example, if I rewrote the last statement in the context of the whole world I might say:

  • A rich person who doesn’t like sharing a ride with a hundred other bus passengers can buy his own car. He doesn’t have to learn to reduce his impact on the environment by sharing transportation.

So, money gives us the power to withdraw from community, control relationships to our own selfish ends, and use more than our fair share of natural resources. Therefore the more money we have (the more rich we are) the more we are able to live isolated, selfish lives.

When you think about it that way, we are all “rich” to some extent. No matter the size of our bank accounts we have all used money to control others, isolate ourselves, and make ourselves into little gods in our own little worlds.

And that’s the problem: the Kingdom of (God) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not a place where persons live in an isolated, selfish way.

The disciples realized that we are all “rich” in some ways and they asked Jesus “who then can be saved?” And Jesus took that moment to remind them that we are not saving ourselves, the Father is saving us, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 19:25-26.)

Because the Trinity is saving us when we could not save ourselves, we rich people will one day find ourselves in a new heaven and new earth where we can’t buy isolation, control, and power. And Jesus says that will be hard for us. Notice, Jesus doesn’t say we rich people can’t enter the Kingdom, he just says it will be hard. It will be hard because we will have to be purged of our selfishness and our unwillingness to live in relationship and community with the Trinity and with humanity.

It’s not that we rich people won’t enter the Kingdom, it’s that our entrance will be hard.

Like a camel being dragged through the eye of the needle we will enter the Kingdom of God braying, neighing, twisting, and contorting. That’s how much our Father loves us! He’s going to have his children with him forever even if we have to come to him the hard way, kicking and spitting like camels.

~ Jonathan Stepp

Economics as Housekeeping

Last week, Rowan Williams gave the keynote address at an economic conference in London.

In it, he makes some good strides toward a new vision for economics, one that would find itself quite at home within a Trinitarian universe.

To the modern economic analyst, a product that enhances human life is of equal value to a product that destroys human life, as long as they can be sold for the same price.  But a truly human economics is so much more than simply measuring and predicting the quantity of stuff we produce and sell.

The Triune Life is creative; it is PRODUCTIVE.  But what is it productive FOR?

This is the question modern economics fails to ask.  Why do we make stuff?  To make a home for ourselves and each other in the world, a home that incarnates the Great Dance.  Truly human economics is about the making, giving, and receiving of beauty and goodness.  Working with the materials of creation — wood and metal, flesh and blood, electricity and light — we cause earth to dance to the music of heaven.

Modern economics has forgotten the dance, cannot even hear the music anymore.  It’s too busy going through the motions and congratulating itself on how many motions it has made.

I cede the rest of my blog post to the wisdom of Brother Rowan:

‘Economy’ is simply the Greek word for ‘housekeeping’. Remembering this is a useful way of getting things in proportion, so that we don’t lose sight of the fact that economics is primarily about the decisions we make so as to create a habitat that we can actually live in. . . .  And to speak about building a place to live, a habitat, reminds us too that we look for an environment that is stable, ‘sustainable’ in the popular jargon, a home that we can reasonably expect will be an asset for the next generation. . . .

If we are not to be caught indefinitely in a trap we have designed for ourselves, we have to ask what an economy would look like if it were genuinely focused on making and sustaining a home — a social environment that offered security for citizens, including those who could not contribute in obvious ways to productive and profit-making business, an environment in which we felt free to forego the tempting fantasies of unlimited growth in exchange for the knowledge that we could hand on to our children and grandchildren a world, a social and material nexus of relations that would go on nourishing proper three-dimensional human beings — people whose family bonds, imaginative lives and capacity for mutual understanding and sympathy were regarded as every bit as important as their material prosperity.

Practically speaking, this means that both at the individual and the national level we have to question what we mean by ‘growth’. The ability to produce more and more consumer goods (not to mention financial products) is in itself an entirely mechanical measure of wealth. It sets up the vicious cycle in which it is necessary all the time to create new demand for goods and thus new demands on a limited material environment for energy sources and raw materials. By the hectic inflation of demand it creates personal anxiety and rivalry. By systematically depleting the resources of the planet, it systematically destroys the basis for long-term well-being. In a nutshell, it is investing in the wrong things. . . . (Rowan Williams, “Human Well-Being and Economic Decision-Making,” TUC Economics Conference, London, 16 November 2009)

~ John Stonecypher





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