Archive for December, 2012

Do you believe in the Economy of God?

This being the season of love and hope for so many AND for many a time of sadness and despair, I would like to remind you of the abundance in this world and with the following “reflection” help you see that there IS more than enough to go around…..and there is proof!

 …….Excerpts from a Reflection by Rev Gail Miller

Don’t you love that phrase?

“The economy of God.”

Maybe you didn’t know there was one?

We certainly all know about

the economy of capitalism

or the economy of socialism.

We know about bull markets and bear markets

and the laws of supply and demand.

But the economy of God?  What is that?

 

Any economy is a structure,

a set of rules about how goods and services

pass between people and groups of people.

Yes that is a very simple definition.

But I’m a theologian not an economist

and the definition will suffice for our purposes today.

The economy of God is all about abundance.

Every parable Jesus tells

Every miracle he performs

Every action he takes contains a message

about how God relates to us, loves us

in a way that is pure, uninhibited, wildly extravagant abundance.

 

Almost all spiritual paths agree that

abundance is created by giving never by hording

- a direct challenge to the idea

that you have to save money in order to have money.

The spiritual idea is that when you give

there is more of what you have given in the world

and in the sacred mystery of divine abundance

when there is more of anything in the world

there is more of it for everyone, including yourself.

 

Sounds good doesn’t it?

Do you believe it? 

It isn’t so difficult to believe

but it is very difficult to live.

It seems there is this little contradiction

between our faith and our experience,

between our belief and our practice.

Here’s the thing.

The economy of God is intelligible

only by the logic of faith.

But most of us have been indoctrinated

into the logic of the market place.

It is a system we accept and perpetuate.

These two forms of logic contradict one another.

 

Our world seems to operate on market logic

with the basic premise being

that there isn’t enough to go around.

You have to fight for what you get.

You have to be vigilant over what you have.

If you give something away,

be it money or love or anything else,

well, then you have less than what you started with

- which is counter intuitive

because the name of this market logic game

is to get more and more and more.

Market logic – far from perceiving abundance

it actually teaches us to perceive scarcity.

Be careful, you may not have enough . . .

 

It is hard to live the way of abundance

because we aren’t used to it, and we are suspicious of it

You know the argument

If there is so much abundance why are people

living under bridges and starving to death?

That we engage in and support and live within

political and financial systems

that see us spend billions of dollars on war,

destroy entire countries for oil resources,

and throw food away by the pound

to maintain the delicate balance

of supply and demand that fuels

our economic systems while half the world starves

. . . well if that is not an attitude of scarcity

I don’t know what is.

We believe there isn’t enough to go around,

that we will lose what we have in order to give to others.

And then we use that argument as proof

that abundance is false and scarcity is real.

It is a lovely system we have created for ourselves.

The logic of the market

-  it’s a dangerous group delusion. 

 

So how do you opt out of this delusion

and still live within its system?

How do you live with the logic of faith

and trust the economy of God?

I don’ t have that answer.

I only know this.

It comes down to who you want to be. 

It comes down to who you trust.

I value my financial advisor

but I trust Jesus Christ.

 

And in today’s scripture story

Jesus give us some his wisdom about giving.

The story unfolds in a series of three movements

beginning with a wide panoramic view

of the temple courts,

then moving into a mid range view of the scribes,

and finally closing into an intimate shot

to capture just one image – a widow

walking to the treasury with her coins.

 

In among the crowd are the scribes.

They are walking among the people

dressed in long, rich flowing robes.

They are symbols of power and authority.

You remember the scribes.

They are experts in the Torah, the law.

They assisted in the many legal

and social transactions

that took place between people

and they were ultimately responsible

to ensure that the law was practiced

in such a way as to take care of

the most vulnerable in society.

 

We already know that there is no love lost

between Jesus and the scribes.

On one of those days in the temple courts

Jesus said to his disciples

Do you see that?

Watch these displays

scribes who like to walk around

in their long flowing robes,

making their way through the crowds

seeking honor and praise.

Watch how they demand respect

and sit in the best seats in the synagogue

and hold places of honor at banquets.

Watch how they accept the honor

yet deny their responsibilities. 

Listen to how they claim to serve God,

yet have no compassion and take no responsibility

for those of low rank on the social scale.

In particular he mentions widows.

Beware the scribes who devour a widow’s house,

take every last penny from her

and then for the sake of appearance

lead long winded prayers

filled with holy words at the time of worship.

It is scathing critique.

Among the many in Jesus day

who belonged to the lower classes,

a widow in particular suffered a cruel existence.

Women in general did not have any wealth. 

Their only sustenance  came from their marriage.

A woman would be in her father’s care and protection

until such time as she married,

when she would have to rely on her husband.

But what happened when her husband died?

She could not inherit any wealth from him

- that would go to male heirs, brothers or sons.

Unless she remarried – which was rare,

or went to live with her parents – if they were still alive,

or with a son –  if she happened to have one,

her circumstances were very dire

- for she lost whatever wealth she had

Poverty was a common enough affliction for many

but a widow suffered in an entirely different way

because as a woman she would

not be able to work or earn money

for that was a male privilege.

She had absolutely no way

to earn her own money

or take care of her basic needs without assistance.

She could never get back on her feet by her own wits

no matter how smart, how able, how independent.

She could not help herself at all.

She was completely dependent

on the goodwill of others for whatever she had.

That the scribes would walk around in long robes,

seeking honor and privilege

while living off the backs of poor widows

was absolutely more than Jesus could stand,

and gives some context to his words.

 

It is with this understanding

that Mark sets up the next scene.

Jesus and the disciples sit down

and they watch the long lines of people

walking into the temple,

approaching the treasury

and making their offerings.

He sees many of the richest folks

dressed in fine linens pour bags of money

into the temple treasury . . .

coins glinting in the sunlight

 

Then Jesus sees her.

One who is burdened,

A woman . . . alone . . .  no fine linen on her.

Amid the ostentation of the scribes

and the overpowering glory of the temple

comes this one,  a poor widow.

She does not approach with a bag of money,

but scraping together any dignity she might have

she takes careful steps toward the treasury.

In her hands she holds two small, dull, copper coins

together worth barely a penny

she reaches out and drops them into the treasury.

It barely makes a sound.

 

Does anyone else even notice her?

Can anyone else even guess

at the level of her generosity? 

Or are their eyes blinded

by the worthlessness of her two coins?

But Jesus sees. He sees clearly

and he is deeply moved saying

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow

has put in more than all the others. 

For all of them have contributed

from their excess,

but she out of her poverty

has put in everything she had,

all she had to live on.” 

She gave it all.

 

Is it any wonder that Jesus is so moved?

This is the last of the temple controversies.

After this Jesus is arrested for sedition

and publicly executed on the cross.

The time is very near when Jesus will,

in an incredible and paradoxical display

of abundant love

give every thing he has.

He will give himself away.

He will give his life – not out of duty, or obligation,

but out of his deep love

and great passion for humanity.

 

Of all the giving in the temple that day

the widow with but two coins to her name

is the one to watch.

Her actions show that she understands

how giving is an act of heart not of material goods. 

From the depths of her being the words rise

I have nothing to speak of, nothing of earthly value

But even this little bit that I have

I give it all, every bit of me to this hope this belief

In God and what God can make possible.

It is stunning really, when you think about it.

 

The widow and Jesus will give different things.

One her last penny, the other his very life,

but both give from the same place

 

It can be difficult for us

- ones who have so much wealth

and a fair amount of privilege and power

to hear such a passage.

Is the widow an example we are asked to imitate?

Yes. But not in the way we think.

I don’t think Jesus encourages widows

to give away their last penny.

I don’t think Jesus asks us

to give away everything we have.

 

But he does ask us to watch and to notice

not what we give but how we give it.

Because something in how we give what we give

opens up the life that Jesus talks about.

If we want to experience the life that Jesus promises.

Watch, watch the widow.

See her and her gift and her mighty heart.

It is a glimpse of God’s economy. 

 

How is it that we give?

Which economy do we trust?

Which economy do we invest in?

The real question I hear Jesus asking:

How much of myself do I really give?

When I give of my time

or my money or my heart

am I doing it fully?

Am I giving my whole self,

or just the part that happens to be available?

Am I “all in” or hedging my bet or, worse yet, bluffing?

Do I give what happens to

fall off the side of my desk,

that which I didn’t really, really need anyway

or am I offering what is my best,

that which costs me, that which is most valuable and dear to me

that which really matters to me

be it money, or time, or energy, or love, or passion.

If I gave of myself this way,

the way the widow does,

what wisdom, what way, what gift, what door would open?

How would that life Jesus promised

live in me more fully and deeply?

 

The widow is an example to imitate

but we are not asked to imitate her poverty,

rather the depth of her heart

and the fullness with which she gives it.

A gift, Jesus says, far more valuable

than ten tons of gold let alone

two copper coins worth less than a penny.

 

Jesus watched the widow that day.

And he tells us to watch.

Watch what you give

when you are with a person you love.

Is there anything that you will not offer

to your partner, your child,

your parent where there is love,

trust and commitment between you?

Watch what you give when you are working

toward a goal that you love.

Is there any time or money or skill

that you hold back when your dream is within your grasp?

There is no calculation in in this kind of love. 

No estimate of income tax benefits to be gained.

No pride in giving large amounts of cash or time or skill.

When you are in love with God,

when you deeply trust that God is in love with you,

then it doesn’t matter if all you have to offer is two cents.

What matters is giving what you have to give

And doing it with the whole of yourself

Invested, available, willing, passionate

And giving to something beyond your own self,

Your own need you own life.

Watch that one, Jesus says,

Watch the one with the mighty heart.

 

We can choose to resist the logic of the market

that scares us into second guessing

the call to generosity.

We can choose to step more deeply

into the economy of God

and the blessings it brings.

Trusting the economy of God.

I tried that once, pushed on that promise

pushed on it hard enough to know

in my heart of hearts it is true

this whole divine economy of abundance.

PROOF

 

A number of years ago

at a time of pretty big financial struggle for my family

I was trying to find a way to live another reality

I read Deepak Chopra’s book

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success

There were seven laws of course

But the one that really caught my curiosity

Was this one.

Give something to everyone you meet. 

And this was the exercise that went with it.

Absolutely everyone you encounter

for one entire day

give them something,

give whatever you have to give, just GIVE.

Don’t fret, don’t calculate, don’t make judgments

about what you give or how much you give.

Just give whatever you can in the moment.

It might be money,

it might be a kind word, a good thought,

a prayer, a moment’s compassion – whatever.

 

So one day, this is what I did . . . and let me just admit

I was highly suspicious and doubtful

But I did it anyway.

I started the day with five DOLLARS

I kept giving them away

and at the end of the day I had six dollars!

I’d give away a DOLLAR,

then I’d find a DOLLAR on the sidewalk three blocks later.

I’d give a DOLLAR to a homeless person

then find a DOLLAR  in my car.

I gave a guy four DOLLARS to buy a parking ticket.

He found me in the movie theater later

and gave me a five dollar bill.

I was like “really . . . are you kidding me?”

I spent all day giving away what I had

and at the end of the day I had more

than what I had at the beginning of my giving.

It was ridiculous  . . .  and amazing.

So I know it’s true.

It was just one of those days

when you can’t argue.

I mean what are the chances that

would just be a coincidence.

 

I know it is true

but I struggle to find the courage to really live into it.

I mean I didn’t go out the next day and repeat

the same exercise using $100 bills.

But I kept giving every day

And here is what I learned.

I learned that five bucks given

might not result in five bucks received,

but five somethings would come my way.

 

I learned that in divine abundance

all things are not equal

but all things are in balance

and not everything we receive

can be converted to currency

but everything has its own unique richness.

 

The economy of God – isn’t an obvious economy. 

It is not like you give away $10,000

and the next day the express post

arrives from heaven with your original $10,000

plus divine interest.

If it was that way,

we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

It surely is a more subtle economy

with blessing arriving in all kinds of ways

- some very unexpected.

It is not the way of the world market

but it is the way of God.

The economy of God –

and a mighty heart

Now there is an equation that

can change the way we give

and change the way we live.

May it be so. Amen.

 

*Thanks to Rev. Ed Searcy for his reflections on this passage.

Mona McClelland

Read More of Mona’s Abundance Blog Here