The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


An economy of grace

'God's lavish kindness couldn't be more contrary to societal norms'

In these difficult economic times, people, states and nations find themselves negotiating the challenges of increasing debt and diminishing resources.

The poor have faced these struggles in every time and place throughout the ages.

What distinguishes this particular economic crisis is that it threatens the habits and quality of life of the middle class to the extent that many people, if not most, need to recalibrate their expectations and assumptions regarding property, possessions, security, retirement and so on.

Although this economic downturn has been the cause of acute hardship and distress, it also provides an opportunity for us to take a fresh look at our lives in the light of our faith commitments and practices. Jesus has a good deal to say about how our trust in the Creator should impact our relationship to the material world, our fellow human beings and the future.

designpics/michael d. watson

But Jesus didn't simply throw out a few ideas about how individuals could better manage their money so as to give more to the poor. Rather, he challenged the very underpinnings of a Greco-Roman society that undermined the dignity, agency and freedom of ordinary folks and imparted an alternate vision of life in community that he called the kingdom of God.

That Jesus proclaimed and enacted the kingdom of God in a society in which approximately 90 percent of the people struggled to eke out enough to feed themselves and their families with little or no surplus is reflected in the prayer he teaches his followers: "Give us each day our daily bread" (Luke 11:3). In a world where people were dependent on patrons and benefactors for sustenance, Jesus exhorts his followers to trust God for the necessities of life.

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