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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: Jesus Christ on the Economic Crisis (An Interview)

[Note: I had originally written this partially as an interview with Jesus. I had misgivings about that from the beginning and should have heeded them, for the resulting blog came out akin to an 8 year old trying to prepare an omelet and ending up with a “scramble.” The substance might be the same but the presentation and style were certainly not what I want to put up for posterity. I’ve edited this and kept the title because I believe blogger uses the title to create the links.]

There are all sorts of sites offering to explain the economic crisis (if it is a crisis), and how it occurred. While politicians have been happy to blame the meltdown on greed, some Christian writers (perhaps in deference to their tendency to support free markets?) have shied away from that view (though some have not), blaming people who could not pay their loans (while pointing out most of those are minorities), or taking a page out of Jerry Fallwell’s playbook and blaming gays, abortion, and other selected aspects of American culture.

It’s funny how people always choose easy targets for blame. [What’s also funny is this video on the Credit Crunch, but that’s neither here nor there.] But what does blaming “greed” or one’s enemies teach us? We already know greed causes problems. We already know democrats/republicans eat kittens. There’s no lesson there.

I think if we asked Jesus about this, He would perhaps bring our attention to something no one is really discussing: the American Imperative to own your own house, even if it takes going into debt for 30 years to do so.

Christians should avoid debt in general, as Paul tells us in Romans 13:8 and God prohibits lending money at interest to your own countrymen, at high interest, or to the poor. Jesus might remind us that even when the Jews did have to borrow, it wasn’t for anything as elective or massive an entire house [and American homes are more like mansions compared to what most people live in comfortably around the world.]

In particular, I think Jesus would call into question the appeal, allure, or motivation behind buying a house. Many people buy for stability or security so they do not have to worry about rising prices or their house being sold, etc. Going into massive debt just to stave off those concerns appears to contradict

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Perhaps a more common reason people buy is that they are told it makes more financial sense, the renting is just ‘throwing money away.” But in the end they almost always pay more in rent [for the same space/location, etc.] than they do to rent [when cost of ownership/maintenance] is assumed. Since when is craftiness toward money our desire?

When someone buys a home either by outright purchase or through paying more per month than rental costs, it seems they are putting interest in storing up and acquiring persona property, which goes against a vast raft of Christ’s teachingsDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal?

Not only does acquiring of personal possessions stop us from ministering to those God calls us to help, but our interest in possessions is a block against following Christ (So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple; For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God)

There’s this idea that it is “reasonable” for us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but I would point out the rather hard response Jesus gave to the Jew who made the “reasonable” request of asking Jesus to tell his brother to share his inheritance with him. ( Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.)

Some might call it “legalistic” to exhort fellow Christians to renounce their interest in worldly possession, perhaps even using that ultimate put-down, “legalistic.” But Jesus, who was well aware of how hard His commands were would be exasperated at those people…just as He was exasperated by His own followers: Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?