Monday, 14 May 2007

God-centred Economics

After hearing a great talk on money last night, I was stirred to write down something I've been learning about money recently.

Surely, what we need when it comes to money is not more exhortation, but a transformation of our worldview. We need a revival at the heart of our collective and personal economics so that the whole way we look at finance has the LORD at the centre. In reading through Exodus, I've been very struck by how the whole economy of Israel is centred around the LORD. The Sabbath, Jubilee regulations, gifts to the tabernacle, sacrifices and festivals are all profoundly economic. They all involve a new orientation of Israel's economy towards worship and justice. The economics of Israel is deeply God-centred and structurally acknowledges the LORD as the Giver of all things and the End of all things. The LORD is the Alpha and Omega of money as well as everything else.

The whole basis of this economy is grace. The LORD has provided Israel with everything and so Israel joyfully gives their tithe back to the LORD. I thought of an analogy here. Imagine you become unemployed and have no means of income, and then a very rich businessman comes along and makes you an offer. He says that you can run his business and live off what you make. You can make as much (honest and just) money as you want - the only thing he asks for is 10% of the profits. You can keep the rest of what you make. That would be, frankly, an incredible offer. But that is what the LORD does for Israel (and us). All that we have is from Him and provided by Him - we just give back 10%. I think that leads to a very different attitude to money and economics. On the one hand we are profoundly grateful for the 'rich businessman's' generosity, and, on the the other hand, we think that 10% of the profits is nothing (we will probably want to give even more out of sheer joy!). All this is about seeing that there is, in one sense, no private property in the kingdom of God. The land of Israel is always the LORD's and only on loan to the people to farm it and use it. It still belongs to the LORD. Whether it's wealth or talents or ability or intelligence or skills, everything we have is on loan from the 'very rich businessman.' If I decided to keep the 10% for myself, it would seems a reprehensible act given the grace that has been given to me.

To conclude, my lack of giving is not just about a lack of generosity in my character, but about a problem in my worldview. It reveals that my personal economy is not centred on the LORD i.e. it is idolatrous and is basically being run by a false god. I've forgotten the rich businessman who owns the business.