Oikonomics

This morning I emerged from sleep with a jolt. That dream again. Half my life ago, I nearly failed my second semester of a one-semester economics class in high school. I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about it. My mother was and is a financial secretary and has always instilled in us a sense of frugal responsibility that has kept me mostly out of trouble, but I still view economics as an absolute inscrutable mystery on par with magic and where the internet really is. Eventually, my teacher impressed upon me the economic reality that lay ahead if I didn’t pass, and I managed to make it through. But the post-traumatic anxiety followed me and shows no sign of diminishing returns. Needless to say, I was not tempted to pursue a business degree, and while I’m grateful that others have and can keep commerce moving, I sometimes take great pleasure in the fact that God will just as soon undermine our financial plans as honor them.

It is against this backdrop that I was at first horrified to discover that the Bible has loads to say about money and then relieved to realize that most often it’s used as a metaphor to talk about stewardship in general, (and then horrified again to realize that this stewardship also includes money). So it seems I’m destined to have to figure out how to navigate this thing. While I’m still not the guy you want to ask about world markets and trade, I have begun to piece together the economic principles of at least one foreign government, which I believe will come in handy in years to come. Jesus came talking about His Kingdom, one that has already been established, will never be conquered, and is coming quickly to our town. Every nation has a way of establishing and regulating value and thriving, which is just another way of saying it has an economy, and Jesus’ economic plan is so backward it seems like absolute foolishness. “The first shall be last?” “The least shall be greatest?” “Blessed are the poor?”

Turns out, money is the least significant kind of wealth in the Kingdom of God. Even gold is so worthless, they use it as pavement. The Greek word from which we derive “economics” is oikonomos: it’s the word we translate as steward or manager in the New Testament. What we see in its use is that God wants us to manage everything in our lives according to his “oikonomics,” figuring out the wisest ways to leverage our resources and relationships toward spiritual gain. Here’s an insider trading tip for you: it turns out that serving others is the single most valuable activity in the Kingdom of God, and it has been dramatically devalued in our current market.

Buy low and sell high, people: the bubble is soon to burst! See you Sunday.

– Josh