Economics and Faith

No one is really working for peace unless he is working primarily for the restoration of wisdom.

―E.F. Schumacher

Scripture: Psalm 119.25

My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!

Reflection: Economics and Faith
By Steven Dilla

In his book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, British economist E.F. Schumacher observes that the modern Western economist “is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less.”

Schumacher’s work, published during the 1973 oil crisis, reads like a manifesto against industrialism’s “bigger is better” mantra. “Since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption.”

The hero of the book is Buddhist economics—a term Schumacher coined after studying village-based economies. Schumacher explains:

The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.

[Western] economics considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity, taking the factors of production—land, labor, and capital—as the means. The former, in short, tries to maximize human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption, while the latter tries to maximize consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort.

Much of what Schumacher offers as a critique of western economics is engaging, if not refreshing. His solution of Buddhist economics is intriguing as well, but he places near-utopian hope in humankind (assuming we can figure out economics):

People who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on worldwide systems of trade.

The idea of Christians thoughtfully engaging faith in economics is a deeply biblical response to our call to cultivate. That image comes with the assumption that everything in creation, as significant and beautiful as it may be, is dust. Trying to solve humankind’s problems through dust is a smokescreen to hide our true actions of substituting God with ourselves.

One of the privileges of the Christian life is responding to the glory of God’s word while we drive it deep into our hearts through prayer. This posture reorients our understanding and deepens our calling to engage thoughtfully with economic theory and practice while we simultaneously set our eyes on Christ as the greatest hope of the world.

Prayer

Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. —Psalm 85.10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 28:20-68 (Listen – 10:11)
Psalm 119:25-48 (Listen – 15:14)

This Weekend’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen – 4:14) Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14)
Deuteronomy 30 (Listen – 3:12) Psalm 119:73-96 (Listen – 15:14)

 

Finding Words to Pray

The edifices are growing. Yet prayer is decaying.

—Abraham Joshua Heschel

Scripture: Psalm 119.14-15

In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

Reflection: Finding Words to Pray
By Steven Dilla

“The true source of prayer is not an emotion but an insight,” observes Abraham Joshua Heschel in Man’s Quest for God. Yet our sources for insight often prove inconsistent or even unreliable. Cultures wax and wane, emotions churn, even our personal perspectives evolve. Nothing can eviscerate a prayer life more quickly than locating our sole source for insight inside ourselves.

“It is the insight into the mystery of reality, the sense of the ineffable, that enables us to pray,” says Heschel. So too, the psalmist who composed the longest chapter in scripture, Psalm 119. The overtone of the psalm is the confession of God’s word as the source of vitality, joy, and meaning in life. The undertone is the way meaningful prayer is sparked and fueled by insights found in his transcendent word.

The remedy for spiritual dryness is prayer saturated with scripture. When we pray the words of scripture they enliven our prayers by allowing God’s word to blossom inside our heart, mind, and soul. In An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible Jim Rosscup identified the psalmist’s record of this experience, verse-by-verse, in Psalm 119.

In regards to our daily experience, God’s words in prayer are, “purifying (verse 9), a treasure (11, 72), joy-inspiring (14), delighting (16), replete with wonderful things (18), counselors (24), enlivening (25), strengthening (28). They are freeing (45, 133), comforting (52), stimulating for melody (54), perfecting (80), life-encompassing (96), sweet dessert (103), light (105), an inheritance (111), and worth waiting for (114). Not only these, but they are protecting (117), provocative of hate toward evil (128), truthful (142), righteous (144), everlasting (160), awe-inspiring (161), peace-promoting (165), and love-kindling (167).”

To experience this first-hand, Rosscup suggest taking one eight-verse section of Psalm 119 and praying through it each day. “God saturates all the psalmist’s thoughts as he prays, and rekindles one’s passion for God just to pray the very verses as one’s own thoughts.”

The Call to Prayer

Let us bless the Lord, from this time forth for evermore. Hallelujah! —adapted from Psalm 115.18

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28:19 (Listen – 13:27)
Psalm 119:1-24 (Listen – 15:14)

 

Beyond Admiration

Christ consistently used the expression “follower.” He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life.

— Søren Kierkegaard

Scripture: Psalm 118.26

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!

Reflection: Beyond Admiration
By Søren Kierkegaard

Is it not true that the more strongly someone makes assurances, while his life still remains unchanged, the more he is only making a fool of himself?

Now suppose that there is no longer any particular danger—as it no doubt is in so many of our Christian countries—bound up with publicly confessing Christ. Suppose there is no longer need to journey in the night. The difference between following and admiring—between being, or at least striving to be—still remains.

Forget about this danger connected with confessing Christ and think rather of the real danger which is inescapably bound up with being a Christian. Does not the Way—Christ’s requirement to die to the world, to forgo the worldly, and his requirement of self-denial—does this not contain enough danger? If Christ’s commandments were to be obeyed, would they not constitute a danger? Would they not be sufficient to manifest the difference between an admirer and a follower?

The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires.

Not so for the follower. No, no. The follower aspires with all his strength, with all his will to be what he admires. And then, remarkably enough, even though he is living amongst a “Christian people,” the same danger results for him as was once the case when it was dangerous to openly confess Christ.

And because of the follower’s life, it will become evident who the admirers are, for the admirers will become agitated with him. Even that these words are presented as they are here will disturb many—but then they must likewise belong to the admirers.

The Call to Prayer

Love the Lord, all you who worship him; the Lord protects the faithful, but repays to the full those who act haughtily. —Psalm 31.23

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 26 (Listen – 3:13)
Psalm 117-118 (Listen – 2:52)

 

To Walk as a Follower of Christ

The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing.

—Søren Kierkegaard

Scripture: Psalm 116.18-19

I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!

Reflection: To Walk as a Follower of Christ
By Søren Kierkegaard

It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression “follower.” He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for.

Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. At the same time—as is implied in his saving work—he came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower. This is why Christ was born and lived and died in lowliness.

It is absolutely impossible for anyone to sneak away from the Pattern with excuse and evasion on the basis that It, after all, possessed earthly and worldly advantages that he did not have. In that sense, to admire Christ is the false invention of a later age, aided by the presumption of “loftiness.” No, there is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to admire poverty, misery, and contempt.

What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires.

To want to admire instead of to follow Christ is not necessarily an invention by bad people. No, it is more an invention by those who spinelessly keep themselves detached, who keep themselves at a safe distance. Admirers are related to the admired only through the excitement of the imagination.

When there is no danger, when there is a dead calm, when everything is favorable to our Christianity, it is all too easy to confuse an admirer with a follower. And this can happen very quietly. The admirer can be in the delusion that the position he takes is the true one, when all he is doing is playing it safe.

Prayer

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not stray from your commandments. —Psalm 119:10

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 25 (Listen – 2:38)
Psalm 116 (Listen – 1:34)

 

Present Glory

God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense, His love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give, and nothing to receive.

—C.S. Lewis

Scripture: Psalm 115.1

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Reflection: Present Glory
By Steven Dilla

“There are sunrises and sunsets, Alpine glories and ocean marvels which, once seen, cling to our memories throughout life,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached. “Yet even when nature is at her best she cannot give us an idea of the supernatural glory which God has prepared for his people.”

Spurgeon’s expression of God’s glory, like the prophecy Paul quotes to the Corinthians, is future-focused. While we, as Christians, hold to the hope, we cannot miss God’s glory all around us at present. Scripture calls us to walk in glory now—to embrace the glory of God that is woven into the hearts of women and men.

“We are the special object of God’s interest and concern,” said Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Recalibrating our hearts to the present glory of God is the key to embracing the future glory, Lloyd-Jones explains in his sermon, Walk With Him in the Glory:

He knew us even before we were born, before he ever made man or created the world, he had these people whom he had chosen, and there he gave them to the Son. As we have seen, there was a great meeting of the Trinity in eternity, and the Father gave these people to the Son and he sent him on this great mission of preparing them for the eternal enjoyment of God. That is what Christianity means, just that.

All along you have been the special object of God’s interest and concern; he has loved you to the extent that he even sent his Son from heaven to earth for you, even to the death of the cross that you might be truly one of his people, that you might have a new nature, a new life, that you might be fitted for standing before him and enjoying him throughout eternity.

It is tempting to acquire present glory through circumstance, possessions, and good works—but all of these can fail us. Present glory is, for the Christian, rooted outside of the self. In failure we are not robbed of dignity; in success we are not wrapped in pride.

“The brightest glory that really can come to anyone is the glory of character,” Surgeon concludes. “Thus God’s glory among men is his goodness, his mercy, his justice, his truth.”

The Call to Prayer

Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. Do not cast me off in my old age; forsake me not when my strength fails. —Psalm 71:8-9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 24 (Listen – 3:21)
Psalm 114-115 (Listen – 2:18)

 

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