Have you ever noticed how the forecast of a storm, and the possibility of power outages or other disturbances in everyday life, often precipitates a stampede of people to the grocery store and other retail stores to "stock up"? Following a natural disaster, sales of "emergency kits" soar as people attempt to prepare themselves for the uncertainties of a disrupted market economy. Scarcity - or the perception of scarcity - is surely good for business.
I've just finished reading a great book by Walter Brueggemann - Journey to the Common Good. In this book Brueggemann argues that empire (that is, secular society) operates on the basis of an anxiety system that is driven by fear and fueled by scarcity. This anxiety system is inimical to the common good. People - generally speaking - are so preoccupied with ensuring that their own needs are met - now and into the future - that they have no sense of broader responsibility to those outside their immediate sphere. It reminds me of the game of musical chairs we used to play when we were kids. Our entire economic system is premised on the assumption of growth - more money, more products, more consumption. And like kids playing musical chairs, it's fun so long as you're still in the game. Not so much fun if you're the one left standing when the music stops. But is it an ethical system? Is it good for us? Is it the only option?
Brueggemann believes that there IS a system that is preferable - it's a system based on an economy of enough. The anxiety of the scarcity system is replaced with a whole different economy based on God's provision of what is needed. And, freed from the anxiety and fear of the scarcity system, people have time and energy to care for their neighbours. Thus, the community journeys from the anxiety system to an economy of enough to a state of neighbourliness.
Remember when the Israelites - under Moses' leadership and God's provision - had crossed the Red Sea and were milling about trying to figure out what to do and where to go next? God provided them with food - manna which literally fell from the sky. He instructed them to take what they NEEDED - no more, no less. And those who gathered more than they needed soon discovered that the excess went to waste. Each day they gathered what they needed for that day. Except on the day before the Sabbath when they gathered for two days and thus honoured the Sabbath. And this went on for forty years! They had enough.
What would happen if we changed our attitude and our habits so that rather than taking all that we can get, we only took what we need? What would our world look like? What if we operated out of an economy of enough and resisted the fear tactics of a global economic system which profits from scarcity and convinces us that we must use whatever political and military means necessary to make sure we get - not just what we NEED - but what we desire? Oh Lord! Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven!
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