1 Corinthians 7:31
(From now on let) those who deal with the world live as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
1 Corinthians 6:13
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.
The problem is not that celebrities have let Christianity down, but that far too many have counted too much on celebrities to validate their faith.
The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. — C.S. Lewis
Ultimately the Christian sexual ethic is not about less sex, or even regulated sex, but more integrated sex. Sex that flourishes and fulfills on every level of the marital experience.
1 Corinthians 5.3
For though absent in body, I am present in spirit.
The magnitude of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys is astonishing — 48 locations, and over 8,000 miles of travel, in less than two decades. Add in the intensity of traveling on foot and animal, without modern cartography or weather prediction, and we begin to see the nomadic apostle’s fortitude.
Physical strain was only part of the weight Paul carried though. He mentions at times ferocity of spiritual attacks, but his writings allude to another pain he would have carried daily: the emotional weight of leaving friends and work behind as he pursued his calling. In his letter to Corinth he reaches back as if to say, though our time together ended, my love for you has not.
“Great is the art of the beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Endings in vocation or relationship are difficult. Industry leaders soften the blow with words like pivot or merger; relationships now dissolve after one party gets ghosted.
“Whether we like it or not, endings are a part of life,” explains Dr. Henry Cloud in his book Necessary Endings. “They are woven into the fabric of life itself, both when it goes well, and also when it doesn’t.”
“Certainly I am not saying that every time something is not working, it should end. In fact, it is usually the opposite…. But there is a time, a moment, when it is truly over.” — Henry Cloud
We try to avoid endings because of the pain they bring. Yet sometimes endings need to happen — new opportunities need to be pursued, painful (or abusive) relationships need to be abandoned.
The word in scripture for life without endings is “eternity” — until that point we must navigate endings well. Dr. Cloud suggests three principles:
- Accept life cycles and seasons.
- Accept that life produces too much life.
- Accept that incurable illness and sometimes evil are part of life too.
Dr. Cloud concludes, “When done well, the seasons of life are negotiated, and the proper endings lead to the end of pain, greater growth, personal and business goals reached, and better lives. Endings bring hope.”
One of the reoccurring themes modeled in the apostle Paul’s life is his profound grasp on hope — Christ himself, who would never leave nor forsake us. It was the good news of Christ’s steadfastness which allowed Paul to traverse the many endings of life, even death itself.
“The basics of the production transformation are increasingly evident; the consequences are much harder to estimate.” — John Zysman
We no longer find it odd to download and tap squares on the screens of our phones in order to purchase the services of other human beings. Whether it’s a meal, homemade good, ride, flight, place to stay or any number of mundane tasks, people ready to help are just a simple icon press away.
Naturally we prefer for our longings to be satiated at the lowest possible cost.
This exerts extraordinary pressure on services providers to keep wages low and shift the risks of doing business onto their workers (many of whom are not employees with benefits and legal protections, but contractors). The gig-economy, which could benefit many, winds up devolving into a low-wage-labor economy. Ultimately the myopic focus on price devalues workers.
The race to the bottom, in the pricing of goods and services, is powered by dehumanized consumption.
“Many peer economy platforms are asset-based. When the primary purpose of a transaction is access to an asset, the value of skills is deemphasized,” observes MIT Researcher Denise Cheng. In Barriers to Growth in the Sharing Economy she continues:
“Everyday people just like you perform tasks and services, and this peer-to-peer commerce creates human connection. However, between price consciousness and a multitude of options for the same service, the service’s human-centered proposition is secondary to consumers.”
How can Christians respond and live out our faith in such a world?
I’ve written before about the tendency toward narcissism for those of us affluent enough to purchase the services of another person by tapping a square.
“One-in-three American workers are independent contractors. The financial software company Intuit projects that by the end of the decade, 40 percent of Americans will be independent contractors.” — Denise Cheng
There is also a massive ministry opportunity in caring for and protecting the service-providers in our new world. The gig-economy exists largely beyond current economic policies. Its workers are often taken advantage of by consumers working aggressively to save money.
“The current reality is that most people do not become independent contractors because they want to, but because they need to,” Cheng says. “The peer economy workforce has not yet hit its saturation point. When it does, services on some platforms may become even more commodified, which would affect the earning potential of providers.”
The words of Jesus should confront and reprove us if we do not rise up on behalf of those marginalized in transactional services, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
The first ministry opportunity is to take what is otherwise a transaction and turn it into an interaction.
We re-humanize the process when we seek understanding of the person to whom we are talking. Are they participating in the gig economy as a casual user to generate supplemental income? Or are they, in Cheng’s words, “independents [who] have no choice but to cobble together a piecemeal income” from a number of apps, gigs, and odd jobs?
Cheaper isn’t always better — theologically speaking. Because human beings are created in the image of God, any good or service that strips another person of their dignity is, by nature, sinful.
Live with less, be willing to pay more.
Christians can also demonstrate sacrificial living through getting by with less in order to pay more for a good or service which comes from a company that takes care of its workers. “In large measure, the current struggle is around efforts to escape what we call ‘the commodity trap.’” John Zysman clarifies in Where Will Work Come From In The Era of the Cloud and Big Data.
The pressure to deliver cheaper — partially in response to dehumanized consumerism — is intense. Zysman concludes, “A diverse array of competitors use widely available conventional technologies to generate roughly similar standard goods, components, and services. The resulting intense competition leads to commoditization, meaning competition based principally on price. The consequence of this commodity trap is intense pressure on wages and profit margins alike.”
The gig-economy will continue to grow aggressively in the next two decades. The Church will grow with it as we Christians in a consumeristic society are able to sacrificially love our neighbors, provide for the marginalized, and live in our world but not of it.
Weekend Reading List
- The End of the Internet Dream by Jennifer Granick for Black Hat via Medium.
- Barriers to Growth in the Sharing Economy by Denise Cheng for The Roosevelt Institute.
- Where Will Work Come From In The Era of the Cloud and Big Data by John Zysman and Martin Kenny for The Roosevelt Institute.
- The Gig Economy Is Real If You Know Where to Look by Ian Hathaway for The Harvard Business Review.