As I’m writing this, I was reminded that today was Amazon Prime Day, “a holiday you can’t attack for being co-opted by consumerism because that is precisely the point.”
As “consumers” we are taught to “consume” – to keep buying stuff, because we “need” more stuff. Stock prices rise when companies project growth, and they can’t project growth if they don’t show consumer demand, so they have to get us to want what they are selling, whether we need it or not. Our entire economy is based on this. We are trained to accumulate stuff, and to accumulate and love money, with which we buy more and more stuff.
Yet even as we restaurants serve gigantic portions and throw out food daily, people around us are starving. One in ten of households in the U.S. experience food insecurity.
While I was studying at Yale, I was a teaching fellow in Economics. But today I know that the Economics of God is different than that of this world.
Jesus warns us, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Then he tells the story of a rich man who produces lots of crops, tears down his barns to build bigger ones to store his abundance, as he plans to “eat drink and be merry.” But God says, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you…This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21)
In the Gospel of Matthew (6:19-21), Jesus is also clear in his instructions: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus goes on to tell us not to even worry about our food or our clothes! That’s certainly not the message we hear from the advertising that surrounds us.
The Book of Proverbs tells us that “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” (Proverbs 19:17.) That’s how God’s Economy works.
In God’s Economy, loving money is the root of all evil. (1 Timothy 6:10)
In God’s Economy, the shepherd leaves behind the 99 sheep to seek the one that is lost. (Luke 15:4)
In God’s Economy, it is better to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)
In God’s Economy, we are made strong by our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
In God’s Economy, the first shall be last and the last shall be first. (Matthew 20:16)
Millard Fuller, the Founder of Habitat for Humanity, wrote “God’s order of things holds no place for hoarding and greed. There are sufficient resources in the world for the needs of everybody, but not enough for the greed of even a significant minority.”
How often is our Greed bigger than our Love? 1 John 3:17-18 says: “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?”
How often do we close our hearts against those in need, rather than reaching out a helping hand? In the world’s richest nation, how can so many people need of adequate shelter, food, and healthcare? How often does society build systems to protect the wealth of a few at the expense of the many? And is it our place to judge who is worthy of the things which God has provided?
When my Grandma Paschall saw the Atlantic Ocean for her first time at the age of 76, she exclaimed, “There’s enough for everybody.” I don’t think she was just talking about water.
Prayer: Lord, help us to seek not material things, but your Kingdom. Help us to know that we can never feel satisfied from what the world offers us, but only with your love as we share it with others. Help us to give up our greed, and to know that you have created a world where there is enough for everybody. AMEN.
(Written for the Rehoboth United Methodist Church Newsletter, July 2021)