In Acts 19, the gospel has such a profound effect on the city of Ephesus that the economy of the city was affected…
“About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
As I meditated on this passage this morning, it got me wondering what this might (should?) look like in my city?
I confess these are random ravings of a non-expert. I would welcome those of you who have economic and sociological insight to weigh in here. But I do, however, upfront confess I find keeping a small household budget on track an extremely challenging business and so please be gentle with my ignorance… But before you shoot down my ignorance – please consider not my weak attempts at working out the implications – but what might it mean to follow Jesus in this issues today? And perhaps more significantly why do we so seldom invoke any Ephesus-type reactions today? Is it simply different times and contexts or could it be that our lifestyles and aspirations are so similar to the rest of the world that there is nothing to get worked up about?
Enough rambling – what might it look like for Christians to engage in counter-cultural kingdom economics in the relatively simple everyday choices we make?
Given that the predominant religion in our city is rampant consumerism, which would definitely have economic implications if we stopped worshipping at this temple, we must make a concerted decision that we will no longer bow down to the idol of consumerism.
We will question the need to produce and buy more and more.
We practice sharing of goods and resources with one another as a family (do we all really need to own a lawnmower or a vacuum or a car?) wherever we can.
We practice sharing of our goods and resources with the poor and marginalised – give away whatever you are not using. Best if you can give away in relationship!
We will start asking questions about where our goods come from in terms of just working conditions, carbon footprint and what it is doing to local economy.
We will practice hospitality in our homes – not only to those who are like us, but to those who are very much not like us (Luke 14:12-14)
We will invite strangers in to share our homes – long-term or short-term as you are able to.
We will distribute (or sell) our goods among ourselves as anyone has need (Acts 2:42-47)
We will stop spending exorbitant amounts of money on brand clothing, entertainment, and more and more (usually expensive) stuff.
We will question what is it we actually need as opposed to what we would like. It it sufficient to have an older TV or do we need the latest model, plasma screen beauty? Our consumer choices very much reveal where our heart is.
We will become wary to pay large amounts of money simply because a product bears a name label – consider hand-me downs, thrift shops, factory shops, make your own – if you have time or skills
We will start considering renewal resources such as urban farming, up-cycling and re-cycling.
We pass on old clothes, books and resources to charities, friends or those we know in need. We will stop hoarding!
We will aim to buy local because not only will it benefit our local community and possibly reduce our carbon footprint but in so doing we resist the urge to make expense the bottom line. We may be able to get it cheaper but are we richer for knowing our shopkeepers, supporting them, loving our neighbours, encouraging local people to love and care for each other. As a gospel community is it of greater value to be able to demonstrate the gospel of grace to our local shopkeepers as we get to know, support and bless them, or is it of greater value to shop at the big, nameless corporations where the price is cheaper? Perhaps we need to stop allowing the bottom line to be economically motivated?
We will value simplicity and simple living without become ascetics.
We will practice contentment (Philippians 4:10-13) as a sign of faith in our God who knows and provides for all our needs.
We will practice a deep enjoyment of what we have already been given from the hand of our Heavenly Father, rather than a longing after what we do not have.
We will slow down from the rat race of working and buying and fixing up and take a walk, share a meal, sit in the park… rest.
A final thought from: “There is a sense in which instead of a thousand dilemmas about how we should use our money, we have to make one fundamental choice: do we live for God or for money? It is because we waver about this decision that we replicate it day by day.” Gospel Living (Unit 9: Living Now: Possession); Porterbrook Training Network