We hear a lot about economics these days. There’s the Stock Market with its All Ordinaries Index and its Futures Index. There’s the GDP, the GNP and the Current Account Deficit. Ours is based on the assumption that there are scarce resources and they therefore need to be valued and traded. Each of us is considered individual units of consumption. If we assume that resources are scarce then everyone’s desire for goods or services cannot be met.
There is never enough to go around. Some people will always miss out and people who have enough will always want more.
Human beings are fundamentally motivated by desire. Desire motivates us to keeps us alive. Our consumer-driven market economy uses the restlessness of human desire as a tool, with marketing constantly creating and stoking new desires. We are dissatisfied with what we have, the way we look and what we do.
Consumption is often urged as the solution to the suffering of others. Buy more to get the economy moving – more consumption means more jobs. One story the market tells is that of scarcity miraculously turned into abundance by consumption itself. It is the rhetoric of our time.
In contrast, Christian Theology tells a different story, The Story. We hear of a God who came into the world that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10); God bring bread for the soul so that no one will ever be hungry (John 6:35). The insatiability of human desire is absorbed by the abundance of God’s love.
God’s economy denounces as disgraceful a whole set of economic assumptions that promote greed and tramples on the poor. A Godlike economy is one based on the assumption of abundance. Recognising everything as gift from God relativizes the boundaries between what is mine and what is yours. We are no longer two individuals encountering each other by way of contract or as active giver and passive recipient. We together participate in the divine life, such that we are fed and simultaneously become food for others.
It is little wonder that the Christian story of an economy based on abundance is diminished and derided. The dominant culture will not easily relinquish its story about individuals exchanging scarce commodities. Yet, the economy of abundance and ideas of sharing what we have been giving for the common good are taking root.
A Godlike economy tells a story of God’s in-breaking economic system. Gone is the notion of a gradual progress toward prosperity which the market, driven by our consumption, is always about to — but never actually does — bring about. The Godlike economy announces the coming of the ‘Kin’dom of God now, already in the present. God breaks in and disrupts the tragic despair of human history with a message of hope and a demand for justice. The hungry cannot wait; the heavenly feast is now. The end-less consumption of superficial novelty is broken by the promise of an end, the ‘Kin’dom is already breaking into history. It is not human desire that drives, but God’s desire. And God’s desire is for justice and abundant life for all.