Recently, for a class of mine, I had to think through what I thought about the idea of “Stewardship”, or how we relate to and care for the material things around us. The context for this was trying to think well and deeply about how we would attain and treat money being raised to plant new churches. Here were some of my thoughts.
Economics of Abundance
“It is here that the revolutions of empty and inordinate desires takes place: of the lust for a superabundance which is not the natural and beautiful abundance of life but the overflow of nothingness….” (Karl Barth)
“We live lives at the intersection of two stories about the world: the Eucharist and the market. Both tell stories of hunger and consumption, of exchanges and gifts; the stories overlap and compete.” (William Cavanaugh)
When it comes to stewardship, I have two guiding principles. The first is that the Kingdom of God is an economy of abundance that protests the dominant economic narrative of our culture that resources of all kinds exist in a state of scarcity. An economy of scarcity means we must compete in a zero-sum game to maximize our gains and defend against our losses.
To lead on the basis of scarcity is to seek excellence not to honor God, but to “compete” in the ecclesial marketplace for the most market share. It is to turn fundraising into conquests and battles, rather than a loving invitation into vision and mission (as Henri Nouwen beautifully reminds us). In my personal life, scarcity breeds anxiety, worry, and fear; letting the next pay-grade guide my job decisions more than vocational call. It puts a greater emphasis on saving now rather than spending wisely.
Wow. Catholics messing with my economic head again. Lots of food for thought here. Anyone else have thoughts?
When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
This could be an interesting argument for a minimum wage increase. The Christian argument behind that is based off of a mutually beneficial relationship between employees and employers. This is because of the historic Christian value of work and payment for that work. The owner seeing men standing idle around the marketplace and him offering them work is a very Christian, conservative response. Further, he makes a point to say that he will pay them whatever is “right”. I suppose there might be disagreement on what he means by that word “right”, but my hunch is that it means the fullness of wages that would at least be livable. Then again, it’s just a parable and I’m certainly reading in my own ideas into the text. Oh well.
See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.
And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.
Notice the order that the priests purify: themselves, then the people, and then their city.
See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.
When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, to prevent any burden from being brought in on the sabbath day. Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem once or twice. But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the sabbath.
Interesting economic implications. There was a real understanding of human nature that understood the power of economics on the human self. If you let the market or commercialism have any real presence among the people of God, it destroys them, and invites God’s wrath upon them. The market destroys souls. We cannot “un-economize” our selves. Hence Paul’s disruption of the Ephesians market when people are converted. This is essentially what the Pope wrote about recently. We can use the market to serve human flourishing, or we can serve it at the expense of that flourishing. Nehemiah knows the tendency of the human heart to serve economics rather than have it serve us, so he keeps the merchants away from God’s people on the Sabbath, when they should be re-syncing themselves with the Living God.
See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.
Well, it’s been a good long while since I’ve posted a Reading List for you all to enjoy–too long, in fact. These were some of my favorite things I read this week. What were some of yours?
In defense of creationists | The Week
Michael Brendan Dougherty
I referenced this at the end of my post yesterday, but this is a stunningly beautiful piece that wrestles with humanizing those that frustrate us the most in the Christian family. A must-read for sure.
Escaping the Prison of the Self: C.S. Lewis on Masturbation | First Things
Don’t overlook this piece too quickly. It is an incredibly powerful piece that speaks to how all of us–married, single, gay, straight–engage our sexuality in this world. It showed me how having celibate unmarried people in the world is necessary for healthy marriages, as well as how masturbation ruins even good friendships.
WordPress’s Photo Challenge theme for this week is “From Above“
I have been very proud, up to this point, of not having ever posted an Instagram picture of my feet. I don’t know where that trend came from, but I’ve bucked it for so long. Until yesterday.
That’s when I received the above shoes in the mail.
No, those are not Tom’s, the shoe company famous for its idea of giving away one pair of shoes to a child in a developing country for every pair that is purchased.
Instead, they are Otto’s.
From the article “Pennsylvania debates new beer flow” in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:
States have adopted various strategies in the 79-year effort to prevent pre-Prohibition alcohol abuses, but Pennsylvania has been particularly idiosyncratic, said Eric Shepard, longtime editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights in Suffern, N.Y.
“Pennsylvania is unique,” he said. “You are by far the weirdest state.”
The bill under consideration, introduced by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) with Gov. Corbett’s backing, is just the latest effort to get the state out of the liquor business. But Turzai’s new twist would permit beer distributors and other businesses that could afford a license to sell beer in any quantity, along with wine and liquor.
In short, one-stop shopping for alcohol buyers, a la New Jersey.
Also, be sure to contact your local representative to support this bill.
Posted from WordPress for Android on my Droid X
Yesterday, House Republicans unveiled their own 2013 budget to counter President Obama’s proposed budget.
Now, neither of these have (or will) become law. These annual budgets are merely proposals and are often political statements of priority. Both the President and the House write their budgets, not realistically, but extremely, hoping that once negotiation begins, they’ll walk away with more of what they want.
But still, like I said, these proposals are expressions of priority and direction to which a party will try and “bend” the nation’s spending. The House Budget Committee Chairman, Paul Ryan, said as much when he unveiled the plan (upon which he bears the final word), calling it “a choice between two futures” (others called it “careless”).
This weekend I find myself with the honor, joy, and privilege of heading to a two-day long leadership retreat for my amazing church, liberti church: center city. In honor of this, I wanted to post articles by myself and others focusing on Church philosophy, community, and such. Some of them are a bit longer than usual, so feel free to grab a cup coffee before digging in. I hope you find these helpful and encouraging no matter where you find yourself in relation to the Christian Church. Have a great weekend. And be sure to stop by next week; I’m pretty excited for the stuff I’ve got planned for the blog then.
And Thus It Begins: liberti home meetings & my heart | the long way home
liberti: center city’s home meetings start next week. I wrote this blog post last year the day before I began leading a brand new group in the Rittenhouse neighborhood of Philadelphia. It’s wonderful to look back over the past year with these people and see that God has answered every prayer I had in this post. I’m still serving these amazing people as their leader, and I can’t wait to see them on Tuesday.
On the State of Contemporary Theology | Fors Clavigera – James K.A. Smith
Here, the author of one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, Desiring the Kingdom, offers his thoughts on the current state of theology, denominations, and theological education. A quick must-read for all.
This week, I wanted to focus on extremely “reasonable” expressions and discussion surrounding Christianity: it’s heroes, it’s application, and how to live it out. This is in honor of a great man we lost recently. A couple of weeks ago, John Stott, a great and fairly unassuming hero of the Church, died. He is very much responsible for the shaping of a Christianity that is both just and intelligent. Even though he did not preach nor speak regularly, and mostly wrote academic books, it is he that laid the theological foundation that has only now finally trickled down to the masses of young and “restless” Christians today–whether we know his name or not. It is the shoulder of this giant of the faith upon which we all now stand. Let us not forget that. I have provided some links to that end.
John Stott Has Died | Christianity Today
This is Stott’s obituary in Christianity Today. Read up on his life and read some of the homages linked to in this article. He was an amazing man.
Evangelicals Without Blowhards | NYTimes.com Opinion
This is by Bill Kristof, a weekly contributor to the blogs at NYT. He is not a Christian, and yet he devotes this article in honor of John Stott–his work, his influence, and the presence of millions of Evangelicals that are continuing his work today by caring about justice in this world.
This week, as I compiled my favorite reads for the week, I realized nearly all of them were from the New York Times. I found these on different days, at different times, and had no idea that I kept bookmarking the same site over and over again. But still, all of them are very different and I encourage you to peruse, read, ponder, and post your thoughts!
Instead of Student Loans, Investing in Futures | NYTimes.com
Ever since the financial crisis hit, I’ve been so intrigued by other economic models for getting things done. This article follows one idea when it comes to funding higher education. And it really seems to work. I also love that this particular idea was not dreamt up by nor financed by the government.
As promised, this week’s weekly must-reads tend towards the theological. We do have some political “leftovers” from last week that you all should find interesting. So, as usual, read to your heart’s content and please comment and let me know what you think about these!
More Like Prayer 5 | Jesus Creed
Fascinating and oh-so-brief introduction to a whole new way of looking at the gospel, politics, and the church. Wow.
Mercifully Forsaken | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
Wow. Simply wow. Such a beautiful and powerful piece of writing on the mercy of God in his forsaking of us. Did not expect this from Christianity Today (front page, no less!).
This week’s weekly must-reads are focused on the pressing political matters of the day: Obama, Osama, the budget “crisis”, etc. I’ve thrown in some fun articles on writing at the end. And for my more “theologically-inclined” friends: don’t worry, I’ll throw you some stuff next week. But in the meantime, check these things out and let me know your thoughts in the comment box below.
Running in the red: How the U.S., on the road to surplus, detoured to massive debt | The Washington Post
As we hit the federal debt-ceiling this week, I wanted to send this article everyone’s way. It is such an enlightening read on how our economic surplus became our deficit–and it’s a reasoned, insightful, factual, calm, and immensely helpful article. (SPOILER ALERT: it was BOTH Bush and Obama’s faults, but mostly Bush’s).
News Desk: Don’t Release the Photos | The New Yorker
This article convinced me that Obama’s decision to not release the photos of dead bin Laden was the right call.
Jon Stewart wants release of bin Laden photos | Salon.com
This video changed my mind back to its opinion that Obama should release the photos of dead bin Laden.
I will be spending most of this week at a conference in St. Louis (see below). Blogging might be a little light. I may try and sneak away at some point, but I can’t make any promises. For that reason, this week’s Weekly Must-Reads list is a little longer than usual. In it, we have articles about fat Christians, single Christians, disagreeing “liberal” Christians, and other writings about business and the media. People really seemed to enjoy the last list I posted. I hope this one also serves you all well. And remember: comment, comment, comment!
Liturgy, Music, & Space | Bifrost Arts
This is the conference that I will be attending this week (Facebook page). It’s being put on by an artist’s collective known as Bifrost Arts. They have some amazing music that you should all check out, including one of the most beautiful Christmas album I’ve ever heard. Also check out this video of some of the things they are doing.