20 Sep THE DIVINE ECONOMY – Merciful Sacrificial and Loving Generosity – Proper 20, September 18, 2022
Preacher: Rev. Stephen McPeek
The Divine Economy: A Different Way of Living
I am blessed to have grown up in a family and culture that lived the “DIVINE ECONOMY.” People didn’t talk about it (and they wouldn’t have even known what to call it) – they just lived it. Even though most people didn’t have much money, there was a constant flow of sharing money, fruits and vegetables, fish and hunted meat, and acts of service. My mother was very frugal and managed our family’s finances with an iron fist, but she fully integrated tithing and giving into our lives. Like my grandparents in Hawaii, my parents had an abundance of fruit and macadamia nuts in their yards, they went fishing in the Pacific Ocean regularly, and always shared their bounty with neighbors and community members, often with people they knew were in need. After my grandparents passed away, I bought the property that they had lived on for 75 years. I felt like the richest man on earth because I could walk outside and pick bananas, oranges, sweet guavas, mountain apples, pineapples, macadamia nuts, lemons, papayas, huge avocados and coffee. It was an overwhelming abundance that was shared freely with friends and neighbors.
Whenever someone in the community married or died, or a child celebrated their first birthday, or graduated from high school, there would be a large gathering and every guest would bring an envelope with a card and money in it. It didn’t really matter how much money was in the envelope. What mattered was that everyone was pitching in – each according to their ability and desire. When Michelle died, approximately $20,000 came together to help defray the costs and to care for her kids. It was stunning, and then again not because this is the way the Divine Economy works.
Where does this island gift economy come from? Perhaps it stems from the “aloha spirit” that is rooted in ancient Hawaiian ways. But perhaps it also stems from the 100 years of the sugar plantation era during which immigrants from so many different nations converged on the Island Kingdom and learned to live together on their meager wages by sharing so that everyone had enough.
This way of life has deeply shaped me, and I love giving and sharing. Some of you know that I own a business which I run in my free time. My whole goal with the business is to increase the amount of money I can give away to help people in need.
In his book God Speed- the Year of Jubilee, The Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economies, author Ched Myers states that the pre-eminent challenge to the human family today is the increasingly unequal distribution of wealth and power. He goes on to assert that Christians must talk about economics and that we must talk about it in the light of the Gospel. Myers challenges the Church to rediscover a radically different vision of economic and social practice that led right at the heart of the Gospel. “The Biblical vision refuses to stipulate that injustice is a permanent condition. Instead, God’s people are instructed to dismantle, on a regular basis, the fundamental patterns and
structures of stratified wealth and power, so that there is ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE.” Myer expands this thought and sums it up by explaining the Sabbath economics which contains two principles: First, the goal of “enough” for everyone and secondly the prohibition on hoarding.
Our western economy is totally different and is based on accumulation of wealth and in its darkest form, on invasion and pillage. Most of us have grown up within this context and either we don’t notice how badly this economy stands in opposition to the divine economy, or we know something is wrong and suffer because of it, but don’t know how to change it. I worry about hoarding. I wonder if that which is passed off as a virtue in the world we live in – that is the accumulation of money for our “retirement” (also a Western concept) – is actually something we will held accountable for.
Now, I do not think that we at CtK are guilty of the blatant things Amos is
calling out with God’s people. However, sometimes the not so blatant things are the very things that trip us up and hold us captive in stagnation. I am absolutely convinced that God wants to bless us in ways we cannot even imagine today. The price of walking in God’s blessing is the willingness to evaluate our thinking and make the necessary and sometimes challenging adjustments required by the divine economy.
The Divine Economy: The Wealth of Generosity that Leads to Everyone
Having Enough, Part II
Like so often during his life, Jesus turns the common and accepted order upside down. He talks about sharing his message with the poor, leading people who are in bondage into freedom, helping the blind to see again, and freeing those who are suffering under oppression. The common order was that only a few people had power and wealth, and many people lived in poverty and were captive to an oppressive power. Jesus turns this status quo upside down and demonstrates another way of living – a way of life that stands in stark contrast, and is diametrically opposed to the earthly and spiritual empires surrounding him. This call to a new way of life shook the foundation of the way people were living, and it honestly still shakes the foundations of modern life if we are serious about following Jesus.
Following the pattern of heaven, among many other things, Jesus exhorts his followers to be merciful just as God is merciful. Jesus calls his followers to share generously, to give even more than is being asked for, to lend even to those who are our enemies, and not to expect to receive back, to not even request that something be returned if it has been taken.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus seems to be calling us to be shrewd in the way we deal with material wealth and resources. In the context of the whole Gospel of Luke, it is the call to another way of life that gives preference and shows generosity to the poor and those in need.
The Apostle Paul speaks forcefully and calls God’s people to a lifestyle that is marked by a wealth of generosity with the accompanying traits of willingness, sacrifice, and honor. He is exhorting the Corinthians to imitate Christ who, in his richness, became poor that we might be made rich. In Christ’s becoming poor, he does not lose in richness but out of his inexhaustible supply of divine richness, gives of himself without suffering depletion or loss. This kind of selfemptying is the act of self-giving that identifies with those he loves. It adds to Christ’s richness and does not take away from it, an example of the kind of giving Jesus calls his friends to.
The “wealth” of Christ points primarily to wealth as generosity, rather than wealth as the possession of goods. Christ creates a momentum of generosity that is not linked solely to one form of giving but including sharing and mutual participation.
The kind of generous giving Paul is speaking about and calling Christians to is not “obligation to the needy or a mutual survival pact among creatures but rather a natural, practical result of participating in the very life of Christ.” It is a reflection of Christ himself. It is theocentric – God-centric. And this kind of generosity leads to universal sufficiency, a powerful term used by author Iwet Iassu Andemicael in her book “Grace, Equity, Participation: The Economy of God” to describe the result of this type of giving which results in everyone having enough.
In Western society, individualism and the quest for wealth and ownership of goods often separates Christians from each other and lures them away from the wealth of generosity of the Kingdom of God. Perhaps unintentionally, Andemicael calls her readers to another way of life, the way of cruciform love as is described by Paul.
The Divine Economy: HOW DO WE FIT IN?
This is about so much more than money—it is about a lifestyle that is radically aligned with the values of the Kingdom of God of which the Divine Economy is a part. There seems to be a divine pattern that we see running from God to Christ, to Paul, to church fathers and mothers throughout history, and to our present day including the author Andemicael. The pattern is three-fold:
- Firstly, just as God is generous and has shown his overflowing generosity
and mercy to us, we should imitate him and also overflow with
generosity and mercy towards one another and towards others.
- Secondly, imitating Christ compels us to live in the flow of the divine
economy in which there is universal sufficiency where everyone has
- Thirdly, this pattern is marked by the spirit of joyful, sacrificial giving and
is considered a privilege especially as it relates to serving the poor. This
is the divine economy, this is the kingdom of God.
- Firstly, just as God is generous and has shown his overflowing generosity
I want to leave you with a few questions as we close.
- How have you been touched by the generosity and mercy of God?
- What does merciful, sacrificial, and loving generosity look like in your
- What does merciful, sacrificial, and loving generosity look like in our
lives as a church community?
- What is one thing you could do this week that would demonstrate
merciful, sacrificial, and loving generosity