This is the sixth of six posts.
The previous posts served to relay Martin’s thought.
This post will offer some theological reflections.
If you recall, Martin concludes that money is like a language – no one controls it .
But, at two points in the Bible we see God changing language: Babel and Pentecost. (The latter reverses the former.) Whereas Babel symbolises Babylon, thereby connoting a Power that divides people, Pentecost reverses this by bringing people together.
Money is a Power. (Jesus called it Mammon.) And whereas the Kingdom unites, the Powers divide. More specifically, money is the symbol of some monetary standard. That standard bears the real power, because get it wrong, and the poor are divided from the rich in a way anathema to the Kingdom.
So, to paraphrase Martin’s argument, when the standard for money is reduced to the intrinsic (and therefore fixed) value of a commodity (like silver), when the creditworthiness of the sovereign is not taken into account, when financial abstractions arise bearing little relation to “the real world”. When this happens, when insolvency multiples, and the state steps in to ensure solvency, the taxes of the poor are used to protect the bonds of the rich, then this is evidence of a fallen Power – because the poor are violently divided from the rich.
Two things seem to follow from this.
First, engaging the Powers at least entails building relationships with the marginalised. Whereas Roman Citizen marginalises non-Roman Citizen (Acts 16), and Jew marginalises Gentile (Acts 21) – the Powers being Rome and Jerusalem respectively – the Kingdom brings them together by the Spirit. Besides, Jesus made a ministry of blessing the marginalised.
Shane Claibourne puts it like this,
Jesus did not seek out the rich and powerful in order to trickle down his kingdom. Rather, he joined those at the bottom, the outcasts and undesirables, and everyone was attracted to his love on the margins. (We know that we all are poor and lonely anyway, don’t we?) Then he invited everyone into a journey of downward mobility to become the least.*
I sometimes wonder whether an over-emphasis on reaching individual leaders (the rich) is an attempt to engage the Powers, albeit mistakenly through an individualistic grid. It seems to me that we will reach leaders by engaging the Powers, but that we will not engage the Powers by just reaching leaders.
Whereas just reaching leaders redeems individuals within the System – not the System itself – reaching “non-leaders” (the poor) deliberately engages that System (which divides “non-leader” from “leader” in the first place).
Second, the notion of a monetary standard raises an interesting question. Will the economy of the new heaven and new earth have a “perfect” monetary standard, or will there be no standard at all (assuming some semblance of money)? Will we issue our own IOUs, because the work of Son and Spirit has made us all trustworthy, thereby ensuring liquidity? Or will there be some (perfect) standard?
* Shane Claibourne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living As An Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 127.