A biblical lesson in economics. God’s economics. When it comes to economics we’re usually thinking in terms of what do we need to do to get ahead in life from an economic standpoint. We wonder about the laws of economics as we ask ourselves “What job can I do that I will make the most money? What kind of education will get me a good job?”
When I was in high school my older brother was very clear with me that I needed to get into computers because that’s where the money was going to be. This was a time when we only had the one computer in school for student use so there wasn’t much in the way of computer classes other than word processing and I was in the math and science end of the building dissecting frogs. So I had to wait until I got to college to really give computers a try.
And since getting into computers was the way to make a lot of money, and I wanted to make a lot of money, I got into computers in college. Or I should say I tried to get into computers in college. Turns out I can’t do programming. And still can’t in spite of repeated attempts to learn the craft.
In any case, I don’t think the mindset my brother and I had in the 70s is terribly uncommon even today. The economic idea of making more money isn’t on everyone’s mind every day, all day but it’s not exactly a novel concept either. And that view of economics puts us in conflict with God’s view of economics. Primarily because our economy deals with more money and God’s economy deals with more love and forgiveness. God’s generosity, God’s economic plan works a little differently than ours.
You have to ask yourself the question, “What if I started each day trying to figure out how to be more loving and more forgiving?” If we started each and every day with this thought, literally wondering how to be more loving and forgiving, how would this change our attitude and approach to whatever comes next? And the second question is like unto the first, if we’re not starting each and every day with this thought, why aren’t we?
People talk sometimes about God blessing them with a new job, a new car, a new house, a new phone, or some other new thing. God’s economy doesn’t work that way. I know the idea that God will bless you with a good job, a good car, a good house, a good phone, or some other good thing if you’ll only do this or do that is a common idea. Turn on any media outlet and you’ll hear preachers of churches large and small saying this. Don’t get me started on social media. Just this morning I saw a post on Facebook that stated “Next 6 days God will perform a miracle in your financial conditions. If you believe write amen, if don’t ignore. Please share.” Oy. Just oy.
I invite you to run screaming from the room if you ever hear me saying that if you’ll only give more money to the church, God will give you blessings in return. God responding to bribery is not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.
What God’s economy is really driving at has nothing to do with money and God’s blessings have nothing to do with things. Seriously. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Today’s story from Luke is an excellent example of what God’s economy is all about.
Here we have someone who is a sinner. The woman who has come to Jesus is, a sinner. Note that Luke doesn’t give us any details about exactly what sin this woman is guilty of, though many of spectulated on this. This glaring omission points us not to some specific sin being a problem but that overall, we are all sinners. So a sinful person has entered into the story with all these righteously good people. Plus Jesus.
Uh-oh, this isn’t good. Not good at all. Lord knows, and I mean that literally. Lord knows good and fine people like Jesus can’t be around sinners. Some of their sin might jump onto him and that would be bad. Oh wait, Jesus did take on our sin didn’t he. Well, that’s a story for a couple of months down the road.
That you couldn’t hang out with sinners was indeed the prevailing thought of the day and for precisely the reason that you’d become impure if you did. Sin was like cooties apparently. If you were around a sinner that sin would jump over onto you and then YOU would be a sinner too!
Only we know that’s not how it goes, don’t we? If we’ve learned anything from Jesus as written by the apostle Paul and explained by Martin Luther it is that we are all sinners. None of us are free from sin, not one. Not only that but there is nothing we can do about it. Not a thing, not one.
This is precisely the point where God’s economy comes in. God simply wants what is best for each of us. Which is why we have some directions in the Bible as far as how to behave. The ten commandments are a good example. God says, here, live according to what I say and it will be well with you.
Of course, being the naughty children we are at heart, we couldn’t (and still can’t) do that. Over a period of a couple thousand years God’s people repeatedly proved they were incapable of following the rules and making themselves right before God. No matter how hard God’s people tried, they failed. And what do people do when they fail repeatedly? They usually give up. They give up on themselves.
But in God’s economy God wasn’t going to let that happen. Keeping score of the right and wrong wasn’t working and so God introduces another plan to us. We’d been at breaking the commandments long enough that humanity recognized their own failures for what they were. The commandments, the Law, still holds a mirror up to ourselves so that we recognize our sin and our need for something bigger than ourselves.
Enter Christ into our picture. Recognizing our own sin and the need for redemption, Christ enters into our lives. Claiming us in the waters of baptism, Christ enters into our lives bringing us God’s forgiveness for all of our sins, known and unknown. We can be done with the keeping score because thanks to God in Christ Jesus, the sum total of our sin quotient is zero.
Zero. Hear me on this. Zero. Zero is a hard number to grasp. You can’t even divide by zero. Zero. Nil. Nada. Nothing. That’s the power of forgiveness over sin. It is true that we can’t choose to be forgiven because God has already chosen us, we can certainly act like we don’t believe it. We can certainly behave as if our lives have not been transformed by Christ.
That’s our takeaway this week. Figuring out how we get in our own way when it comes to forgiveness so that… we begin each day asking ourselves how we can Bring Christ’s Love to Life by being more loving and forgiving.