Power Made Perfect in Weakness
There is a lot of talk in the world today about the state of "the economy." Depending on where you want to open the discussion, the scale of that image can range from your own local community up to the state of the global economy. Usually, when we talk about the economy, our remarks hover around how bad (usually) or good (infrequently) it is. Because we worry over it, a lot of the discussions about the economy keep us invested in finding ways to fix what is broken about it, or attempt to improve it by innovation. All of that worry is about how we can make life better by improving the economy; and sadly, by betterment we tend to mean "better for me and mine."
In preparing this rumination, I went and looked up the etymology-the origin-of the word economy. It is drawn from the ancient Greek and means, literally, the management of the household. Big or small, meta- or micro-level, concern about the economy is really concern about how humanity is managing its household. All well and good, until you start to think about how much our human economy is based on extracting worth from resources in such a way that some humans have and get more while some humans have and get less. On top of that, with today's economic trends, over time those with more seem to be winding up with more while those with less wind up getting less. Advocates for the increasing number of people winding up in poverty point out the injustice of this extractive system and that increasing concentrations of wealth in the hands of a few does nothing to help them decrease the burdens they bear. Advocates for the status quo argue that concentrations of wealth are necessary in order to empower things like the creation of jobs or the fostering of innovation. Where do you and I fall on that spectrum? At one end or the other? Somewhere in between?
Over all of this in today's readings, we are being pointed toward seeing another way. There is an economy, a manner of managing our collective human household (and our individual ones to boot) to which we are all called: God's economy. The economy that God models for us is illustrated in Job's response today, and in Paul's fretting over the reception his teachings are having in Corinth. It is centered in the assumption that the well-being of everything and everyone is our primary and central calling. We cannot be "rich" until we care for the poor. We cannot be well fed until the hungry have food. We can't be whole until others find healing. We can't know peace until all nations know it. These are hard truths, because they push us into places we do not want to dwell in...wherein we are never at peace, never at rest, and every gesture we make to give some of what we have to others turns out to never be enough.
Job braces his rage against this dilemma. Paul takes nearly the entire chapter trying to push the responsibility for this impossible vision off his shoulders. We keep waiting for God to show up and intervene and set things right. None of these choices do much to resolve the tension...and we can look around and see that the world is still in quite a state...
I think the answer lies in our willingness to being to see the world through God's eyes. We cannot make change happen until we are willing to see that our human economy is our common responsibility. Grain shortages in India matter to us, not just because that means an increase in our own food prices but because that shortage means suffering for people in India (and elsewhere) that we do not know from Adam and Eve. Political posturing in Washington that impacts assistance programs is not just political theater when the results of those decisions means dramatically reduced life expectancies in some regions of the globe (much less the country) than others. What makes me shudder is that so much of all of this is bigger than anything I could possible do to effect change...and yet if I want to make God's economy rise in precedence over our current, human mess then I have to act.
It begins in small ways. Look to our neighbors. Do they have enough food, enough anything? Do I even know their names? Look to my local community...am I invested in its well being enough to show up to meetings, engage the leaders, learn how the system works and then put that knowledge into practice? Am I willing to put some of the energy I invest into getting ahead into making sure the world around me is better for my presence? Am I willing to persist in striving for justice, knowing that I might not see the end results?
In God's economy, the answer is simple.....Yes.