Today’s link: Genesis 42; Mark 12; Job 8; Romans 12
I have been well educated in the idea of capitalism. And the more I learn about God’s kingdom, the more I see parallels between the workings of God’s world and ours. Ours is merely a shadow of His, but because in large measure it is created out of the wisdom of men, it is something less. I wonder where our big ideas come from in the first place? Ideas that might be just a little off, especially if we start to forget their origin — or as we lose touch with the Originator. Since capital is the cornerstone of the economic system called Capitalism and since all things emanate from God, it made sense that there must be a thing that I could describe as spiritual capital? Webster’s dictionary defines capital: (2) : accumulated goods devoted to the production of other goods (3) : accumulated possessions calculated to bring in income. So spiritual capital would seem to be the spiritual goods and possessions that allow the production of the fruit of the Spirit, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control…. (Galatians 5:22).
I have often wrestled to reconcile various teachings of the bible with my limited understanding of the world. For example, how does the social gospel (giving to the poor) relate to capitalism, an idea seen through the history of civilization. The Bible sheds some light on this. Interestingly, Jesus’s parables sometimes use the constructs and principles of capitalism to make bigger points about God’s kingdom and His economy. I often think about the parable of the talents in Mathew 25:14-30 which illustrates how God wants us to use all we have been given, to take chances and invest our talents for His sake. Jesus uses the description of bold investing to encourage our investment in God’s kingdom. Throughout the Bible we are told to grow this investment, to seek out God’s kingdom, to pursue it, even beg for it — and only then can we objectively compare life in God’s kingdom with life on our own. This investment is clearly not financial, but spiritual. We are called to invest with (and to build up) our spiritual capital, for this is the means of production and the path to accumulate true wealth in God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is a place where the most valuable currency is love, and it is spirit based. The greatest and truest measure of success is found when God, through His Holy Spirit, opens the gates of heaven and pours His power into our lives — providing riches that we then in turn are able to share with others by loving them.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the value proposition God offers us when we trade a life that can never satisfy us, for an abundant life in the presence of God. The price of sin is so incredibly high it establishes a value for grace which is beyond our understanding. This transaction is so ridiculously out of balance in our favor that it seems too good to be true. Nevertheless because of the troubles of the world and the deceit of riches, this is sometimes hard to see. But it really is an offer you can’t (or shouldn’t) refuse, and still many do. Again, I thought of specific scripture; For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Then I read more; For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul…(Matthew 16:25-26) and in wisdom I am reminded that the value of the human spirit, part of our created being, is infinitely valued by God, it’s creator.
Today’s reading gives us much to think about. God had shaped Joseph through trials, then blesses him with an amazing life. Now Joseph is reunited with his brothers and has an opportunity to seek revenge or forgive. What would I do in that situation? And the widow who gives a mite in the offering, is favored above all by Jesus, which tells me that God wants our hearts not our money, once again proving the value God places on the human spirit — on our souls.
In Mark Chapter 12, Jesus offers parables that use elements of the worldly economy to illustrate how God’s economy works. One parable uses a vineyard and a wine press as an example of this world. We are like the tenants, given this splendid creation to grow fruit and make wine, which represents the privilege to produce good things in our lives and to be a blessing to others. It is expected that as tenants we honor the owner of the property and the means of production, including sharing some portion for the greater good of God (and His kingdom), the owner of all. Like the evil tenants who dispatched the masters servants, we often take what is not ours for our own glory, turning away messengers and signs sent by God.
When the Jewish leaders attempt to trap Jesus by questioning his wisdom about Roman law and paying taxes he says in Mark 12:17 …Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s… He doesn’t say, don’t pay taxes, but implies everything is God’s, a clear concept in the Old Testament — and they marveled at him.
In adressing the question about the greatest commandment, in Mark 12:30, Jesus reinforces the fundamental truth that everything belongs to God, even our hearts. Still, we must choose to give our hearts to God! And you shall love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and all your strength. This clearly points us to God from the beginning to the end of our lives, while establishing what our primary focus should be. As Christians, how can we miss this? Aside from this being a command from our maker, again, here is an offer that we can’t refuse. This truth becomes increasingly more apparent when we begin to really understand why this command is so valuable to us. Yet again, God in His wisdom has given us the free will to chose to obey or not — to invest in the spiritual capital of His kingdom, or not. If we are honest, as we compare our wisdom against His, truth is revealed. He gives us the freedom to look for truth and invest our lives where we will. Where will you look for truth? In what will you invest in today?