...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why God Isn't a Capitalist

God's resources of love and grace don't run out, even though most of us function in a world system called capitalism, of supply and demand over limited, precious resources. God's economy of grace works differently.  Our economic system is based on scarce resources driving up the cost of those who can pay for them. 

About this time of year, thousands of churches hold financial stewardship campaigns often using the parable of the talents from Matthew 25: 14-30:  

Are we givers- or takers?
"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. To one he gave five valuable coins, and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey. After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. But the servant who had received the one valuable coin dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money."

But this is a parable about God's kingdom and grace, not about economic systems or which bank offers a better interest rate. All things, even what we call "our" talents, belong to God, so all three servants are given- given- the coins to begin with. Thus, the act of letting go is an act of faith and an acknowledgement that, whatever resource given belongs, first and last, to God.  In God's economy of grace, whatever we have to offer is multiplied, not by investing it a bank, but by giving it away. By burying the gift and keeping it, white-knuckled, to ourselves, we lose it.

The hinge of the story is also the tragedy of  investing in the bank of fear and scarcity, and refusing to invest in God's reign and rule: "Master, I knew that you are a hard man. You harvest grain where you haven’t sown. You gather crops where you haven’t spread seed. So I was afraid. And I hid my valuable coin in the ground. Here, you have what’s yours."

I rarely hear this parable as one of toxic God- image, but that's what fuels the third servant's troubles. Because the parable seems to end with describing the servant as "evil," "lazy," and "worthless," we take that he didn't want to work, to achieve. Again, this is only lazy and worthless as it happens in relationship to God's rule and realm. As we are loved, forgiven, and blessed, when we refuse to forgive, to love, to bless, we lose the blessing. Matt. 6: 14-15

This is much more about my relationship to God and God's realm than I thought. It's not about my relationship to money per se, or even the right kinds of financial investment. It's whether or not I choose to trust that God's love and mercy are more than enough to equip me to share any and all blessings God has given me. 

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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