Monday, August 30, 2021

Kingdom Economics

This week, we're looking at the world's criticism that more Christians should be (and therefore, should vote) socialists. After all, isn't that what Jesus stood for? We will respond to this criticism by forming a robust definition of Christian community, but first, we need to get one thing fundamentally clear:

Jesus was neither political nor economic. And...intentionally so. 

Everyone thought that Jesus was coming as king, but Jesus resisted this at every turn. He refused to let the people make Him their political leader. And the fact that the religious leaders were far more intimidated by Him than the political leaders just shows us how well He separated Himself from this notion of the people. The people might have wanted Him to be King, but the Romans were not particularly scared of that happening. They weren't the ones coming after Him.

What complicates this is that God does give us instructions about government, and Jesus Himself shows us how to live under the governance of others. The most famous of all of these lines is, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's." And when His own taxes come due and His disciples seem overly concerned about it, Jesus simply responds by telling them to go catch a fish and give that coin to the government. So at the same time, He is both very laisse-faire about the whole thing and also intentional - we are to submit ourselves to our governments and live as good citizens, but we must also recognize what small and futile things our government truly controls for us. Certainly, it is not the government's job to run our lives or to determine our provision; we are the ones who provide for it. 

Neither was Jesus particularly economic. He paid His taxes and, in fact, this is the only money we ever see change hands in His Gospel - the money He gives to the government. He provides many other things for the people, but not financially. He feeds them. We assume He clothes them (I just can't imagine Jesus sending a naked woman caught in adultery away naked). He heals them. He makes every provision possible for them, but He doesn't give anyone money. Nor does He imply that they should expect money that they have not worked for. 

The economy of Christ is one of grace, generously given. What He keeps showing us, again and again, is that provision is not always, or even fundamentally, financial. He is always looking for the greater thing that someone needs - healing, forgiveness - and offering that. He doesn't simply make a way for them to buy themselves out of whatever situation they are in. Rather, He restores them so that they are able to provide for themselves. 

Does that mean that Jesus wouldn't give someone money? I don't think so. I think if it came down to it and that was the best way for them to take another step toward whatever God had created them for, He would give a little financial cushion to help them bridge that gap. I just think He recognized that money is not everything that we make it out to be, and I think that led Him to live a deliberate example of true economy - one that doesn't run on coins, but on change. 

Even in His greatest example of going the extra mile, He doesn't mention money. If someone slaps you, turn the other cheek. If someone makes you give him your coat, give him your shirt, too. If someone makes you go one mile, go two. Not once does He say, if someone exacts payment from you, give him more than he asked for. 

And when the widow gives her two mites into the collection box, Jesus never says that someone should go and give her the whole collection box so that she has enough to live on. He never says that someone should go cut her a check so that she has more to give the next time. He never says that someone should be eliminating her poverty. In fact, Jesus plainly says that we will always have the poor among us, which means that Jesus was at no point envisioning a socialist economy (of course, we could argue that under socialism, everyone is poor, but I don't think that's what He meant, either). Jesus didn't have in mind an equal distribution of wealth. 

If He did, then every servant would have received ten talents. 

Are you getting the point here? Our world wants to tell us that everything is politics and money - even Christianity - and yet, these are two things that Jesus just didn't care that much about. In the grand scheme of grace, they weren't even on His radar. He knew they were important to us, and that they were going to become even more important to us generations later, and He felt the pressure of even His disciples to step into these arenas. He had every opportunity to say something about them, to create for us a working definition of "Christian" politics and economy...and He didn't. He deliberately chose not to. 

So I think it's fair to say that we shouldn't, either. We should stop letting the world tell us that our faith boils down to the same things it's interested in. We should stop letting the world push us toward something that Jesus deliberately stepped away from. 

Does Jesus call us to socialism? He does not. And honestly, the kind of community He does call us to is far, far different (and so much better). 

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