April 26, 2007

Economies Spiritual & Otherwise

I've been pondering the parallels or lack thereof between the economy of salvation and the monetary economy.

People are in pretty much two camps with regard to our capitalistic economy. One camp believes it is zero-sum, that every dollar Bill Gates has is one less dollar for the poor person - i.e. wealth cannot be created. The pie is of fixed size. (This camp is ignorant of economics.) The other camp believes that the pie is always enlarging and that it's Bill Gates and others who create wealth. It's win-win.

With the spiritual economy, I've long been struck by how C.S. Lewis prayed fervently for his wife Joy's healing from cancer. I read the story awhile ago, but the basic drama is that he experienced great enduring pain at the exact moment hers was being relieved (she was in remission for three years). There was a substition of pain, as if that pain had to go somewhere, as if the pie of pain was zero-sum. (I don't know how long his pain lasted and thus how literally it served as a substition.) The ultimate example of this is, of course, Christ taking upon Himself our sins.

On the other hand, another view of the spiritual economy is the truth that you can't outgive God and that everything given is returned beyond our imagination (i.e. the Resurrection following the Crucifixion). Spiritual wealth is infinite - there is always more. There is also always an imbalance between what we give and what God gives. The five loaves and two fish fed a crowd of five thousand with twelve baskets left over. Whereas in a monetary economy things are traded of relatively equal value, in the spiritual economy there is His uber-generosity.

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