There have been stories about stock markets, exchange rates, interest rates, oil prices and food shortages in all parts of the world.
Many of the economic systems and their impacts we tend to take for granted as a society are being brought into focus and questioned, especially when it comes to sustainability.
As Christians we are asked the same questions and face the same challenges and situations. This offers us the opportunity to urge some different answers and responses.
One of the first realisations is a reminder that much of the current economic systems of our world, based as they are, on greed and exploitation, injustice and over indulgence in consumption – are wrong. Today on TV we have protesters in Russia protesting against corruption. This seems to be a common theme around the world.
As part in this trend we need to ask ourselves if our lives, and even our faith, are so entangled in the economic structure, we are unable to imagine other ways of ordering our lives our families, communities and the world. Those who promote and profit from our economic systems have powerful voices, tuned to convince us of their importance and pre-eminence.
In the face of progress as it were, it is increasingly clear why Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). He went on to suggest that we should not worry about what we eat, drink or wear – and the list would probably be longer if the Sermon on the Mount had been preached to us today here in our auditorium in Avarua, rather to poor peasants on a hillside.
Jesus reminds us to look first to God who “already knows all your needs” and “will give you all you need from day to day if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern” (Matthew 6:32, 33 NLT).
But even as we ask these questions of our own lives, we need to quickly realise that the poor and the already-disadvantaged are always first to suffer from whatever stresses impact society. We must be asking how we as individuals and as churches, can reach out to help those who are hurting financially, physically and emotionally, in our communities and even around the world.
I have just returned from a tour around Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. This tour was to see what the churches are doing in response to the poor and needy in the community.
I never thought that in a developed country like Australia and in the cities of Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, you will find people who are hungry, homeless and have lost all hope. I saw first-hand what society has done to these people. They ended up on the streets where it is difficult for them to navigate themselves out of the state they are in. Creed and corruption has taken over society and as far as they are concerned, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Giving is the ultimate negation to an economy built on getting and having. We must resist the temptations uncertain times bring to try to build walls of protection around ourselves. Instead, as Jesus recommended, by our generosity and faithfulness we demonstrate that our treasure is to be found in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 6:20). Even in pondering various scenarios at these times, in which economic turbulence often seems to figure, we must shift the focus away from mere self-preservation, whether spiritual or physical.
Here’s an alternative vision for the people of God in responding to potential crises. We as Christians need to move on to new models of changing grace in a Christian community.
Christianity has never been about isolationism, and never will be. In the midst of looming collapse, our homes open to the disposed and fearful. Our churches and schools become places of refuge, our sanctuaries a home for the homeless. Unused lands plough up into gardens. As the world self-destructs before our wondering eyes – Acts 2 reminds us that this is our finest hour.
Pastor Eliu Eliu,