money = speech

Today’s Bible readings

“Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you” — James 5:3-5.

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. — Romans 13:7-8.

…..“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
…..Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
…..“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.  — see Luke 7:40-49. 

More thoughts for meditation

The ruling elite have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and wounded any spirit of resistance to domination they might normally have. Why aren’t we having more dialogue in the spirit of James who wrote to the ruling elites of his time (above)?

Somehow, the rulers have convinced the latest generation that whatever little portion of the “corroded gold” they have will be taken away if they don’t conform. Their only hope is to hoard whatever little wages they are paid in hope of having a retirement of limited self-indulgence!

The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives depose Mubarak in Egypt, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War back in the day all had one thing, at least, in common: the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt. The debt industry is just one of the institutions subduing the young.

We learn a lot about using money in our profit-dominated society. Basic money management rules never change: Spending less than you earn will always be beneficial. Investing your money will always be better than doing nothing with it. And planning for the future will always be better than blowing your paycheck as soon as you get it.

But in the U.S. those management ideas are usually applied to becoming wealthy not pursuing God. Some of us resist the pursuit of wealth by refusing to seriously deal with our finances (much less the details of our common fund!). Some of us resist resisting and try to Christianize the pursuit of wealth, or at least avoid talking about our preoccupation with it. Alternatively, we want to have a godly resistance, not just resistance of some sort for the sake of it. We need to address the use of money (which is a subject often laden with taboo or fully enslaved to some godless philosophy) with love and in the presence of God.

Among the Circle of Hope we say, “We are birthing a new generation of the church to resist and restore with those moved by the Holy Spirit.” That means at least four things in relation to the debt, especially,  that is breaking the spirits of twentysomethings, especially:

  • We prophesy. Even if you think the truth will get you in trouble, you “go James” at the proper time.
  • We do not conform. Even if love is illegal, we practice it. We expect the nation to live up to its good laws and go beyond its modest sense of justice.
  • We create the alternative. In our community we are all about forgiveness and sharing.
  • We demonstrate the alternative. We get people out of debt and we share. Our debt annihilation team is an extremely practical example of this. Our compassion fund distributions are usually gifts and always no-interest loans. Our cell members take care of each other. We have thrift stores full of low-cost items. We hold baby-goods exchanges. We support relief and development and advocacy through MCC. And we sure don’t follow every lie the domination system dishes out – instead, we live simply in the freedom of the Spirit. We find a new way through the wilderness of the present age.

Suggestions for action

If you read the Romans 13 passage (above) in an individualistic way, then whatever debt a person incurs is their lot. The debt industry would love to have us all feel that “morality” straight from the Invisible Hand. It is ironic that the government and the corporations that own it (corporations that are increasingly seen as individuals!), are not held to the same standard of responsibility as individuals. In fact they have special rights like limited  liability and, the big one, they can live forever.  But Romans 13 is not from capitalism. The main debt we have is to love. We pay off our debtors, if we can’t avoid debt, in order to stay free to love. How free do you feel?

When Jesus tells Simon a parable about the woman washing his feet with her tears (the reading from Luke, above), he at least suggests an outlook that presupposes no one is endlessly responsible for their debt. In the Lord’s story, the money lender forgives debts when someone can’t pay. That’s one thing. But the big thing, as in Romans, is that love is owed. Love is the goal. Forgiveness is the prize. In contrast, the faithlessness of our society is enslaving people. We’re taught that we will ruin someone if we disturb their supposed self-reliance. Being taken care of by society (or anyone) is considered somewhat wicked by many people. But the corporations are very well cared for! Even if there was a vestige of Christian morality as part of the economic conversation, we would be better off. Does this angry paragraph make you feel you’ve wandered into taboo territory? Does it steam you up and make you want to do something? Each of us is given a part of the resistance to operate. Now that everything is so changed in the age of Covid-19, maybe the Jesus revolution can get out of jail when the rest of us are out of stay-at-home. What would that be like?