This post is not about trying to change your minds about putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes. There is nothing in me that wants you to put marshmallows on sweet potatoes, but you be you.
This is about changing our minds regarding economic and cultural systems. (Sounds boring, I know. But stay with me. I’m getting to Jesus.)
I saw this recently and Snopes confirmed it so it must be true. (Seriously, it’s probably true.)
One of the most divisive tool used by politicians, media people, and average citizens these days is the accusation that someone is a socialist. Or someone is a communist. Or someone is a (dirty) capitalist. We accuse our enemies of being (pick a word) and then we castigate them. And we sure won’t ever vote for them.
I’m not an economist, so I won’t try to explain these systems, but John Green can give you a crash course if you wish.
No economic system is perfect. We tend to compare the realities of capitalism (that some people amass great wealth while many more people struggle to have sustainable food and housing) with what pure socialism would look like (everybody works together to provide food and housing for each person.) And communism might look good on paper, but not really.
As I reflect on the different economic systems and cultural systems in the world, it’s clear that the issues are about our spiritual systems. Money is the god of many people and making money no matter who gets hurt is their religion.
Power can be our god and amassing power can become our religion.
And – wait for it – saving the world can be a religion too. (Yay us.)
But the Truth is that what will make the world as it was created to be is not any economic system or form of government. The world looks more like the Reign of Christ when our hearts are changed.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Hearts don’t change without divine intervention. We can call it whatever we want to call it. We can credit God with our turnaround or not, but it’s still God.
If we make millions of dollars and forget the poor, then money has become our god. If we refuse to acknowledge that all people – whether we think they deserve it or not – have the right to have food, housing, health care, and education then meritocracy is our god. (Please read this.) If we believe that the government can save us, then maybe America is our god. (Or Denmark.)
Someone wrote recently that it’s a sin to be a billionaire. Dolly Parton could be a billionaire, but she gives too much of her money away for things like Covid-19 research and literacy programs. Economists say that the annual salary someone needs to live comfortably varies widely between states. If you live in Mississippi, a living wage is $58,321. If you live in Hawaii it’s $136,437.
If you live where I live – in North Carolina – it takes an annual salary of $64,406 to live comfortably which means you can cover living expenses, discretionary expenses, and savings. Again, this varies by which town you live in and if you have lots of debt, good luck.
In other words, how much is enough for those of us who make a lot more than our state’s annual requirement for a sustainable life?
These are complicated issues and changing any kind of system is a monumental task that few of us want to take on. But imagine a world in which individual and corporate hearts are changed to become more like Jesus.
Yes, I am an optimist. Yes, I have hope. And yes, I feel despair sometimes. And there is indeed “a right spirit” that God can stir in us.
May our hearts be changed this Thanksgiving in these simple ways:
- We realize that what we want and what we need are two different things, and gradually we don’t want so much.
- We change the way we see money. (Financial literacy is a spiritual discipline assuming we use money as a tool rather than a god.)
- We stop demonizing AOC or Lindsey Graham or whomever it is who gets on our last nerve. (Seriously, stop it.)