Posted by: dacalu | 21 November 2011

Christ’s Economy

Today is the feast of Christ the King.  The last Sunday before Advent (the season of preparation before Christmas) is reserved for thoughts of Christ’s supremacy.  It strikes me that Christ as King might not be the most useful metaphor for modern Americans.  After all, we got rid of kings, didn’t we?  Well, sure enough, but there is still an important message there, one that has to do with value.

And so I would encourage you to look at things in this way.  The coming of the Kingdom of God meant one thing to ancient and medieval Christians.  It meant the power of the emperor or monarch would be subordinated to the power of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.  Theologians took the most powerful thing around and said, “Jesus is like that, but more so.”  Living in the age of the “almighty dollar” – never more so than now with the Tea Party and Occupy movements – we think of economics as all powerful – market forces, supply and demand, productivity.  And I want to tell you, “Jesus is like that, but more so.”  I want to tell you that there is a Christian economy.

The hardest thing for people to understand about our faith is that it means radically reorienting the way we look at the world.  They want to know WHY we love.  They want to know the economic or personal or practical gain of worship and charity…  But that would be missing the point entirely.  Christianity means – fundamentally means – valuing property, and power, and glory for the sake of love and never the other way around.

We seek to love God and neighbor.  Full stop.

Heaven is not a reward, but the necessary consequence of life lived in unity with God and God’s children.  Orthodoxy, orthopraxy, ethics, and institutions all serve this one end, love.  We worship Jesus Christ, who had the power to conquer nations, command angels, have anything he could want.  He wanted us.  That value system informs us.  Jesus gave up everything else in the process of coming into friendship with every other human being.  At – one – ment.  Reconciliation.  Family.  We are one in God, through Christ, who did not see equality with God a thing to be taken advantage of, but humbled himself to be one of us.  Christ, who saw equality with us a thing to be reveled in, embraced, and fulfilled.

Even in our increasingly capitalist culture, we still view Christmas as the season of giving.  If all other meaning gets stripped away, that will still remain.  Giving can be profoundly counter-cultural.

Our economy tells us to get what we want.  Market capitalism carries the assumption that we will all be best off if we just pursue our own interests – our own goals.  I don’t doubt it can be very effective.  Alas, it also suggests that our goals should be selfish and material.  Capitalism measures value in dollars and the market tells us that each person seeking for themselves will result in a system that best serves the needs of all.  It isn’t so.

Jesus offers us another way – a gift economy, in which we give to others according to their need, rather than taking according to our desire.  This could, no doubt be done with a market – but somehow it never is.  The market is a wonderful mechanism for distributing power.  Alas, it is also a horrible incentive toward selfishness, an excuse to be apathetic.

Christianity provides no service.  It is recompense for nothing.  It has no cost.  Christianity is – at it’s best – a gift.  It is a gift of love from humanity to God, in worship, praise, and thanksgiving.  It is a gift of love from God to humans in a sacrifice and an offering of communion.  It is a gift of love from Christians to the world, as the love of God we feel bubbling up inside of us overflows in charity, compassion, and joy.  These three need not, cannot, must not be separated.

We know that the giving and receiving of gifts cannot be separated, for both are blessings.  Both draw us closer to one another.  As we enter into the season of Advent, I invite your prayers and meditations on this theme:  the economy of Christ.

His gift to us, through which and for which we are beholden to God.  We have not been bought.  We have been embraced.

Our gift to him, through which and by which we return the favor.  And by favor, I mean affection, grace, love.

Our gift to one another, freely offered in sacrament, service, and joy.

We give.  That is our nature and our calling.  It cannot be reduced to anything else, but must be accepted as what it is: our gift and our most fundamental being.

Anyone who tells you different, is selling something (and it ain’t Christianity).

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