The following is a guest blog by Tyler Sims.
Over the past six years my wife Andrea and I have been pursuing ways to be peaceable followers of Jesus.
strive to be pro-active pacifists who heal the earth, love people and
cultivate community. Essentially, we desire to imagine and
participate in a Jesus-inspired-peaceable community.
nice. Doesn’t it?
problem is peaceable communities are few and far between. Here in
Protestant America, it is a lonely venture. Contemporary peaceable
resources for the novice are almost nil. There is scarce personal
storytelling, history lessons, or norms related to pacifism in
American churches. So what do we do about it?
and I do what so many peaceable sojourners do; we keep our eyes and
ears open for supplemental guidance. We look for sustenance. We
experiment. We wait.
blog chronicles one such peaceable guide that surprised its way into
our lives. The guidance recommends replacing money or finance with
community and trust. Our peaceable sojourn into the conscientious
world of finance started with a kid’s trip to the library.
While waiting for our kids to finish their library routine I found myself scanning through finance books. One book stood out, Saved: How I Quit Worrying About Money and Became the Richest Guy in the World by Ben Hewitt. Much to my surprise a book about finances cradled partial blue prints for cultivating Jesus’ peaceable kingdom.
Hewitt’s journalistic venture introduces the reader to a subversive
community and the quest to understand “money”. The community he
describes has a primary currency of trust and generosity. Finance is
used judiciously and as a last resort. Ideally, communal trust is
exchanged from household to household. Through time the hypnotizing
illusion of financial systems is eroded. Investment in stocks and
retirement morph into investing in people and the earth. For Hewitt
he came to these communal-economic ideas by asking the question: what
the World of Finance
After September 11th, Ben Hewitt found that his modest retirement fund had virtually disappeared. He set out on a quest to learn exactly what value, wealth, and money is. His discoveries would reshape his life and metaphysical orientation. In a sense, Hewitt’s work is a tool for naming the idol(s)–the practice of identifying, analyzing, and supplanting death-like power structures. His work dethrones money from its lofty pedestal and exposes its empty nature.
systematically probes and documents the false reality of finance and
money. He points to finance as an immaterial and contrived structure.
How is this so? It commodifies needed resources–food, clothing,
shelter– into consumer products. Essentially, objectifying real
necessities to a violent fiscal metric or language. For instance,
once food is commercialized it loses it natural relation to people;
food is no longer a foundation of life freely given from the earth
unto people. Food morphs into a commodity dispensed by corporations.
People soon see it through this distorted lens. Altering humanity’s
perception of food drives their “need” to accumulate money in
order that food or other resources might be seized instead of
shared. Mass participation in finance results in a power based
economy founded on the the fear of death.
the finance economy holds communities at ransom through financial
demands and language. In other words, only money can unlock needed
resources within the modern world. Money or finance becomes the lock
and key to life. It takes up the role of idol by replacing natural
processes. From a theological angle, fiscal systems exchange
resources found in creation with a human fabricated arbiter. Romans
1:25 comes to mind “they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and
turned to idols”. Consequently, finance generates its own moral
code and metaphysical definition of existence. It is an existence of
ransomed resources and enslaved people.
of resources via finance is accomplished through the concept of
value. According to Hewitt, value assigns subjectively determined,
numeric rankings to resources. The result is an oppressive system
which disproportionately dispenses or withholds basic resources from
people according to income. Thus, the perceived numeric value of
resources leads to speculation. Speculation ignores abundance. The
result is resource hoarding by a few. Thus, greed converts
abundance into scarcity; greed masquerades inequity as savvy
underscores scarcity by quoting from the book Sacred Finance,
“In context of abundance greed is silly; only in the context of
scarcity is it rational. The wealthy perceive scarcity where there is
none. They also worry more than anybody else about money. Could it be
that money itself causes the perception of scarcity? Could it be that
money, nearly synonymous with security, ironically brings the
opposite? The answer to both questions is yes.”
security” replaces communal systems of interdependence with a fear
of scarcity resulting in greed. The oppression via monetary systems
persist as value creates power structures. Value assigns numeric
ratings for resources and for people via cost and salary, solidifying
an alternate reality rife with alienation. Once people could drink
freely from wells (resources). Now water can be purchased (via
salary) by the bottle (commodity).
does not simply objectify resources, it dehumanizes people. For
example, teachers and EMTs have low salaries (low value) and can
barely afford housing (a commodity) due to its expensively assigned
value. Meanwhile, CEO’s and lawyers with high salaries (high value)
easily access necessary resources (commodities). The needs of the
“low” and “high” professionals are equal and yet their access
to resources unequal. Classes are spawned by the systematizing of
people via “value”. Climbing the economic ladder becomes the new
purpose to life.
the world of finance is fabricated and violent in nature. Finance, at
some point in time, arbitrarily creates the “haves” and
“have-nots”. Money morphed from the gold coins of Rome to the
cash bills of Washington to Visa cards. This economy of fear and
finances has changed but its method of oppression remains the same.
First, convince people that money is necessary and neutral. This is
important. People must believe money is foundational and amoral.
Second, wield the power of finance to exploit human lives.
Financial Economies with the Substance of Community
dissects the lie of finance: money is necessary. He exposes money as
a hollow ploy. The paradigm that you either have money or you are in
debt is false. It turns out money is debt. Documented in his book, he
points to the federal reserve printing currency backed by nothing,
U.S banks loaning mortgages that they cannot fund and the US GDP
requiring 4 dollars of debt per 1-dollar increase (Hewitt, 95-98).
Essentially, modern finance uses ethereal fiscal numbers to claim
physical resources. These monetary claims greatly exceed actual
resources available. It can be deduced, money is debt, the financial
system is a ruse, and numeric wealth is an illusion wielded by the
weaponized illusion of fiscal wealth masks the reality that
concentrated fiscal fortunes are connected to decreased communal
wealth and natural resources.
what can be done with financial oppression? Hewitt reintroduces
alternative ways of exchanging goods and services. In place of the
ambiguous and oppressive value systems Hewitt suggests its
counterpart, genuine wealth. Unlike Wallstreet, a realm which
conjures its existence not from substance but through speculative
judgments seeking to capitalize on consumer habits, genuine wealth is
formed by substance and sincere relations.
substance of genuine wealth is the combination of physical goods,
food, skills and relationships a person has, both individually and by
extension of their community. Wealth in its optimal form is
communal, fluid–exchanging hands– and accessible to all.
example the author gives is ladders. Why should a neighborhood of ten
homes have ten thirty-foot extension ladders? Why not one or two
ladders? This increases the neighborhoods resources and increases
person to person interaction. Generosity or wealth is spread all
Erik, the “poorest” and wealthiest person Ben Hewitt knows, “In
short what I observed in Erik’s life was an incredibly
interconnected, interdependent, community network that shared freely
of its resources be they intellectual, physical or material…Erik
had in large part usurped the moneyed economy by creating an economy
of reciprocation (Hewitt, 139).”
a community with Erik-like citizens time and resources are abundant.
A person should need only the currency of trust to have their needs
met. In communities where trust is currency people are generous,
responsible and resourceful. They lean on friends and neighbors
wielding innovation to meet each other’s needs. Communal trust
systems cultivate renewed relationships between people, earth, and
Creator, exchanging fabrication for substance.
participating in either communal or fiscal economies might resemble
the following traits.
speaking, people pursuing finance value independence while relying on
the accumulation of money and consumer goods. People pursuing genuine
wealth value interdependence while relying on the accumulation of
relationships and the development of skills. The first group immerses
themselves in the unreal of financial speculation and accumulation.
The second group immerses themselves in the real of relationships and
cultivating innovation. And yet we are all a part of the fiscal
system likely falling somewhere between the two systems. Thus, an
ever increasing lean out of the fiscal system and into the communal
trust economy is paramount.
reading Hewitt’s book Saved, Andrea and I were able to
understand the violent working of the money idol. We clearly
understood the need to develop a large store house of communal trust.
Likewise, we saw the need to decrease our dependence on money. Not
because money and finance can lead to evil. But because money has
become the vehicle of evil. It has stratified humanity into
no-class, low class, high class. It has stripped forests of trees,
polluted ground water with oil and deprived children of food. The lie
of money perpetuates homelessness, cultivates war and substitutes
communal relationships with personal finance. The truth of community
erases hierarchy, cultivates relationships and shared
resourcefulness. Humans created money. Therefore, we can undo this
mistake by supplanting monetary systems as an act of creating
as Financial Iconoclast
Jesus would have been willing to recommend Ben Hewitt’s book. At
times Hewitt draws from the New Testament Canon and shares Jesus’
fiscal iconoclasm. Reviewing Jesus’ sentiment toward money in light
of Hewitt’s book sheds light on a peaceable economy. Luke 18
records the story of a young man who wished to join Jesus’
peaceable community. He was told to sell all his possessions first.
In Matthew 21 Jesus rages at merchants for turning God’s temple
into a market. In Mark 10 Jesus states, “It is much harder for a
rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through
the eye of a needle.” Jesus puts great distance between money and
the Kingdom of God through much of his teachings.
of Jesus’ teachings confront the economy of money in a profound
manner. These teachings face off with the popular American sentiment
“In God we Trust” as seen infused on money. A lie so well
entrenched it would forge God’s endorsement– the God who turned
over money tables and multiplied fish for the masses at no cost!
so, Jesus’ words ring clearly:
one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other;
you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve
both God and money.”- Luke 16:13
well as “Then Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,
and to God what is God’s.” And they marveled at Him.” Mark
the first saying Jesus draws a line in the sand. Serve God or money.
Either serve the systemic and deceptive world of money/finances or
serve the peaceable community of Jesus. You cannot have two masters.
In the second quote, Jesus teaches money belongs to Caesar. Jesus had
no interest in the power wielding system of Caesar. This death
dealing economy is hollow and Jesus disowns it.
contrast, Jesus embraces the life-giving economy of God. “Give to
God what is God’s.” How beautiful. Life belongs to God. This is
not some trite phrase readily consumed and processed. No; it is a
stark metaphysical claim. Between the two scriptures above Jesus
makes it clear: what belongs to God is life. What belongs to Caesar
is death: an empty, hollow fabrication called money.
endorses a communal ecosystem. He called his peaceable ecosystem the
Kingdom of Heaven. Consider the garden of Eden and its founding
elements: relationship, cultivation, and abundance. Communal trust
systems are much like plants in an ecosystem. Plants take nutrients,
process, and give back to the ecosystem. Plants do so patiently and
in season. Taking what is necessary while re-gifting what is not
needed. Eventually, a tree or bush will fruit abundantly; no one
creature can consume its bounty. The communal trust ecosystem
involves sharing, patience, and interdependence. Where no one thing
or person is labeled as “mine” by fiscal systems but everything
is everyone’s according to God’s gift called life.
the communal system, the ecosystem of money withholds necessities of
life until the system is appeased by its ever-shifting financial
demands, e.g. inflation. It is a system which takes without
thoughtfulness and wastes instead of re-gifting resources. Man
authored a fiscal economy which deals in alienation and death.
the choice is to consume or cultivate, take or give, fearfully grab
for control or trust in Jesus’ community of peace. It is a call to
acknowledge “money” as ancient evil lie. The choice is
relationships restored or relationships fragmented.
we bow our knee to the power-based reality of Caesar? Or will we lean
into the embrace of peaceable communities of trust?
2:44-46 “All the believers were together and had everything in
common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they shared with
anyone who was in need. 46With one accord they continued to meet
daily in the temple courts and to break bread from house to house,
sharing their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart.”