Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A World Without Money

I recently came across this video on the BBC news website about American, Daniel Suelo, who has chosen to live entirely without money for the last 12 years. Although I have to admit that for most people it doesn't sound like a very practical option, I did nevertheless find his story very inspiring.

Suelo survives by foraging and scavenging and on gifts from friends and strangers. His philosophy is to use only what is freely given or discarded, or already present and available.

Suelo has proved that it is possible for one person to live like this, but what if everyone tried? If we all tried to live out of dumpsters or on hand-outs, who would do the work of producing the food and other resources that we all need? Is Suelo a visionary demonstrating a new way to live, or just a bum who lives off other people's hard work? Suelo's own answer to that question is here, but here are some of my thoughts:

First off - as I suspect many of my readers will have already concluded - it doesn't seem realistic to me that everyone should try to live like Suelo. There are 7 billion of us on this planet and we can't all survive by scavenging. There wouldn't be enough food (or caves - such as the one Suelo lives in!) to go around. I do think though, that Suelo's choice of lifestyle nevertheless presents a very real challenge to the rest of us which does deserve to be taken very seriously.

On his website, Suelo goes so far as to compare our financial system of credit and debt with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For those not familiar with the Bible, this is the tree from which Adam and Eve - the first humans - ate, when they rebelled against God in the garden of Eden. If Suelo's comparison seems a bit of a leap, consider that before their rebellion, Adam and Eve lived in a permanent state of grace. There were no rules and they had everything provided for them - all they had to do was gratefully receive it and obey God by not eating from that tree! But rather than trust God, they ate from the tree - thus choosing self-sufficiency instead. Cut off from God and His loving influence by their own choice, humanity quickly deteriorated into all kinds of wickedness. This was compounded by the guilt they now had from their new-found insight into the nature of right and wrong. Cut off from God's grace and forgiveness, they designed systems to try to control their destructive behaviour ... and to keep score!

Meanwhile, money - credit and debt - is another way of keeping score and of trying to be in control. It's all about entitlement. If I have this piece of paper, then I'm entitled to that product or those services. We all know where we stand as long as everyone keeps the rules. In the beginning though, there was no entitlement, no keeping score. In a world where love and grace are in charge, there is simply no need for these things.

Having thought this through a little further, I find myself coming to the somewhat startling conclusion that at it's core - as necessary as it may seem to modern life - money is in fact profoundly anti-Christian! The Bible never goes so far as to condemn all money outright, but it does radically undermine that sense of entitlement on which all financial transactions depend. If Suelo's way of life seems radical, listen to some of Jesus' words on this subject:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.
Consider these words as well, written by the apostle Paul - one of the earliest of the first generation of Christian leaders:
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Finally, consider the explosive effect that the original Christian message had on some of its earliest converts:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
One of the most immediate and powerful effects then, of the "gospel" - the message of God's grace made available to us again through Jesus, as it was originally understood - is that the barriers of "entitlement" are broken down. "No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own". It doesn't matter any more! That's grace in action!

Most Christians alive in the world today - sadly including myself - have lost the initial power and impact of this message, but whether we like it or not, this is still where we are all going!

There has been much speculation in Christian circles for 2,000 years regarding the nature of the afterlife. The idea of some sort of ethereal heavenly bliss that has been promoted so heavily by the church for centuries is now slowly giving way again in many quarters to the idea of bodily resurrection to a new/renewed creation, as was originally preached by the early believers. Whatever the next world is like though - whether it's completely disjointed from this one or is in some way a continuation of it - there are certain things we can be sure about if we take seriously anything the Bible has to say:
  1. God will be very present there, and God will be in charge.
  2. It will be a world ruled by love - because God is love - and by grace.
  3. It will be a world free from evil. Evil will have had it's day in this world and having done its worst, will be given no place in the new one.
Will there be any "entitlement" in the new world? Will there be rules and regulations? Will there be credit and debt? Will there be money?

I suspect not!

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you don't have an account, and you want to leave your name, select "Name/URL" from the "Comment as" drop list below. Then just enter your name (you don't have to supply a URL) and click "Continue".