Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Economic Sharing

To share the control of our resources with fellow believers and to share what we have with the poor is part of what it means to be the church. Economic sharing is a way of life intended for all God’s people, not just monastic orders, the clergy or special ministry groups. No particular form or administrative procedure can ever be normative for all, but the biblical vision of fellowship will always include our economic lives, the sharing of our money and possessions with each other and with the poor.
The Call to Conversion - Jim Wallis
via inwardoutward

"Sharing" is one of the words that many have reduced to mean essentially nothing. "Sharing" is a sharing of thoughts and feelings. But from a biblical perspective - certainly from what we see in the book of Acts - sharing is largely an economic. Much of the church has lost this... much of the church lacks a ministry to the community... I think the two are linked.


michael lewis said...

I nearly want to revolt whenever I hear / read of the call to return to Jerusalem for the Early Church's mode of community, on the appearance that it was / is the only way and the correct way.

Jerusalem fell, the temple was destroyed and the church was scattered under persecution! One could argue that this method was indeed the worst, as it was thwarted by God, and has never been replicated in a sustainable way ever since!

Now, sharing is good. But is this sharing based upon an expected return? Such a thing is called trade; the trade of goods or services. Now you've got a market and the beginning of an economy.

Or is this sharing based upon charity? If it is charity, then it needs to be a smaller part of a larger system of social justice. But then is this social justice egalitarian or libertarian?

I'm not against any of this, but I am only for some of it. All these systems are flawed in one way or another, and essentially all become dirtied by greed. Not even theocracy in all its perfection can prevent greed from pussing itself out in some manifested sore, blighting the whole thing for essentially everyone.

In the meantime, I will continue to eke out my existence, pay my bills, buy my food, and attempt to enjoy what little happiness I can find.

mike said...

I knew this quote and one coming up by Shane Claiborne would open a can of worms. Economic sharing... trade... charity... social justice are topics that create all sorts of personal and corporate tensions.

Michael Lewis hits the name on the head in his second last paragraph... "All... systems are flawed... all become dirtied by greed." In the early church [Acts 5], Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and "kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet." Nothing wrong with selling some property; nothing wrong with giving all or some of the profit to the apostles; everything wrong with misrepresenting what you are doing.

What I think Wallis is driving at, is that we need to hold our possessions loosely not selfishly. We can offer our resources to others, not demand it or take it from others. Not as charity, which often views the recipient as being lesser, but as sharing among people who are equal.

michael lewis said...

Interestingly, it was a biomedical ethics class I took last fall at the U of Lethbridge which further entrenched me in the world of ethics and morality.

Unfortunately, I don't think charity can exist without some type of class or caste system.

And with this sharing, is it a consumable or non-consumable good? A neighbour lending a hedge trimmer to another is perhaps sharing, and that with an equal, but the hedge trimmer is known to be returned, and likely not consumed. And if the hedge trimmer is not going to be used for the duration of the time that it is with the other neighbour, there is no loss recorded for the owner. What ethical or moral value is there in sharing a thing which cannot be consumed and will not be missed or needed while it is away?

Or would sharing and charity be but the same thing aside from the attitude of the giver? Being that when the attitude is that of a general equality between humans the act is defined as sharing. But if the attitude is that one is lesser or worse off than the other, then the act is defined as charity?

My friends open their home and have me over for a meal, and they are sharing. But suppose they fly to some other place, build a house, and stock the shelves with food for a year; is this not considered charity?

I have no answers, I merely ask more questions.