Wealth that is stored up on earth ‘where moth and vermin destroy and where [Ponzi schemers] break in and steal’ (to paraphrase a passage in the Bible) doesn’t stay wealth for long. This, in the Christian tradition, is the notion that temporal things disappear. Whether one’s wealth is grain in the silo or money in the bank, it will go away if not used.

In fact, storing up wealth out of greed or fear not only hurts us spiritually, but also human institutions can wage war against this behavior. Put your money today in a CD for a year, and the best interest rate you can find is 1.34%. Even inflation of 3% will leave you twelve months from now with a net loss.

Or take an extreme case from the early 20th century, when German theoretical economist Silvio Gesell proposed something called ‘stamp scrip.’ Essentially a tax on currency that was determined by the government to be hoarded, and designed to encourage its ‘velocity’ in the system, stamp scrip would assign a stamp to a currency note each month that cost 1% of the note’s value. If the note did not carry the proper stamps when spent, it was invalid. Therefore, if you didn’t spend your money in a reasonable time, adding ‘velocity,’ it eventually would turn to valueless paper. In German, this was called schwund geld, or shrinking money. (My mother used to tell me as a child that ‘money was burning a hole in my pocket’ because I spent it so quickly. Had I lived in Germany in 1919, I would have been vindicated!)

Christians believe that the gospel, on the other hand, rejects my hoarding what I think are my scarce resources (an individual behavior resulting from Capitalism), and rejects the State’s forcibly distributing abundance (an organizational behavior resulting from Fascism). This position maintains that we should manage the abundance that God gives us (Genesis 1:28) and give out of the scarcity that we sometimes feel we have (II Corinthians 8:2). When Christians stop and look at Jesus Christ, they see a God who distributed himself and his life for others’ gain. They view this gain as abundant life now in terms of spiritual fullness, and in everlasting life in the world to come.

In view of the eternal life we now enjoy and anticipate more of, even what seems scarce to us is not really so. With this assurance, we can distribute ourselves generously to those around us: our families and friends, our neighbors and coworkers, and the poor and oppressed among us.

We are the ‘seed for the city.’

Advertisements