My Disordered Economy

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Sam here. HCB'er, Bob Robinson, inspired me today with his post, The Economics of the Kingdom. Within my cranial walls, I view work as service to others and worship to God. Outside, it's a different story. Opportunities, personal interests and the subsequent self-accumulated bills reveal work to be — as economist, Alan Storkey, puts it — "the means to the consumption end." I.e., I work to get stuff. In his contribution to the book, Christ and Consumerism, Storkey writes,

The pressure towards the future is so powerful that there is no room for the present — my friends, my growing children, the question of whether my work is good and valuable rather than just well paid. People are not able to live in the present, because the future with its ends and goals has so big a claim on them.

Why do I get so tied up by these consumption claims? Screwtape — C.S. Lewis' literal Devil's Advocate — provides an answer in the following advice to an apprenticing demon nephew:

Let him [the Christian] have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours. Let him feel as a grievous tax that portion of this property which he has to make over to his employers, and as a generous donation that further portion which he allows to religious duties. But what he must never be permitted to doubt is that the total from which these deductions have been made was, in some mysterious sense, his own personal birthright. (Screwtape Letters)

I get myself tied up because I believe it's all mine to consume. It's my birthright, right? And work is the way to get it. Oh, I donate. I practice charity. I give generously on occasion, but only with the leftovers. Dutch economist, Bob Goudzwaard, corrects me:

Our concern here is with the sequence of things. Stewardship means: first take care of the earth for which God has made you responsible, first see to it that others have enough, and then you will discover that there is plenty left for you and your own society. This is what I would call the economics of God's Kingdom.

Again, I know all of this in my head. But I'd rather live at the center where all my labor pays personal dividends. Such are The Economics of Sam Van Eman. Check out Bob Robinson's post and the rest of Goudzwaard's quote while you're at it.

Post written by Sam Van Eman.