Here you have the text of the workshop I did last 29th and 30th December in the meeting of Taizé in Madrid.
The complaint: You cannot serve both God and money
This is a strong statement. Jesus doesn’t confront serving Rome and god but he is confronting money and god.
And Jesus is not the first to denounce the eagerness to be more and Wealthier. This complaint has a deep biblical roots
The Book of Sirach already denounces as it is difficult to love money and god at the same time. “The lover of gold will not be free from sin; whoever pursues money will be led astray by it.” (Sirach 31, 5)
The gospels condemn the eagerness to get richer several times. “Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed; because your true life is not made up of the things you own, no matter how rich you may be.” (Luke 12, 15) “Jesus looked around at his disciples and said to them, “How hard it will be for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God!” (MC 10,23)
“Do not store up riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal” (Mt 6, 19)
Saint Paul affirms 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” (TIM 6, 9-10)
Also the holy fathers insist on this idea “the love that the usurer professes to money is much more serious than the most disordered carnal love” John Chrysostom, in his homily on the letter Tito
The desire to get richer and richer dehumanizes who feels it. Avaricious people see the other as an instrument, like someone who can help or prevent their main objective, to get more and more money
the greedy person sees his neighbour, not as an end in himself, not as a person, but as an instrument to achieve its objectives
The love of money prevents us from loving God. God’s love leads us to love our neighbour. However, the love of money prevents us from loving people.
We live in a society that is focused in the eagerness to BECOME richer and richer. A society that chooses as a main objective the economic growth, and economic growth is to want our country to have always more and more production, that our country was always richer and richer
The economy has a main role in our society. Aggregated wealth is the north that guides our action. people are not the main thing, but economic growth.
The economy becomes a new religion or an ideology (which as Jordan B. Peterson claims is a degenerated religion)
The theologist Harvey Cox states how the market has the three habitual divine attributes, omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence and how the economy has a language similar to the teological language
The market forces seem to be above us so not only serve for all human activity (are omnipresence) but are infallible in every fields (omniscience) and who does not follow their commands, will be punished by them (omnipotence)
The Gospels report a desire for money that dehumanizes those who follow it and when we used it to build an economic system becomes idolatry, idolatry of the market as was called by John Paul II, or idolatry of money as was called by Francisco
But does the gospels have something to say about this? Do we have a good new to give to the economy? Can we give a hope to society and tell it that a more human economy can exists?
The answer is yes, we have a good news for the economy that I will try to describe in the following minutes
break/pause FOR REFLECTION. Comment in small groups what does this initial idea look like? Do you believe that the economy is being understood as a religion? Do you believe that the world moves especially by the economy? Do you think that if the money and the profits come first, people are left aside? Comment examples that you know.
The gospels are good news for the economy.
An economy in human key can be experienced. You can enter love in the economy and that is not only possible, but desirable. It is the only way for economy to fulfills its function
In commercial relationshipthe principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity. This is a human demand at the present time, but it is also demanded by economic logic. It is a demand both of charity and of truth.
The first thing is to be aware that the economy can be at the service of people and is not necessary on the contrary.
The vocation of service of the economists and the economy must be recovered. The economy is not an ideology or a religion. The economy is not above humanity. The economy is not a natural law to which we have to adapt our behaviour.
The economy can and should be in a second place, in a place of service. The economy must allow people to have enough to live with dignity
The key to do it is in the economic message of our main prayer, “our father”. We don’t Ask to have ever more among all. To be richer and richer but we ask him to “Give us this day our daily bread”
This is a poetic way of saying that we want everyone to have enough to live
The good news of the gospels give us this path, the objective of the economy at a personal level and at the community level is to have enough to live
To conform us with what we need is to put the economy to the service of the person. Thanks to the resources that the economy provides us, we can live with dignity and develop our humanity. The economy supports our life
Changing this objective also allows us that the economy takes care of the creation and do not try to exploit it. Nature is not only our service, but we are responsible for it. We must take care of it, conserve it and make it bear fruit.
For this reason, we need fields, gardens, forests, farms, not agricultural exploitations, forest exploitations or livestock exploitations
Nature is not an infinite source of resources that we have to exploit to have more and more production, but a gift of god that we have received and that we have to care for. Nature allows us to live with enough to us and to the future generations.
If we want to go in this direction, the economic relationship should not be based on competition, on the contraposition of interests, but on reciprocity, on mutual aid, on collaboration.
An exchange is not a selfish activity, but an opportunity for the relationship. An opportunity for both sides to relate to each other and achieve mutual benefit
that’s why love is not foreign to economic activity, but it can and should be at the center of the economy. Thus allowing community to be created, collaboration to be created and common good to be built.
The economy allows us to approach the other, to live a relationship of reciprocity with our neighbour in which we give and receive each other and we obtain mutual benefit.
The gospels offer us that way of love that serves, improves and perfects any human activity, also the economic one.
In this sense, the sharing that is shown to us in the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the logic of the gift, of giving without expecting anything in return, appear as privileged instruments of an economy at the service of people.
The evangelical keys to build that new economy are five
FIRST: to put the economy in its place at the service of people
SECOND: Change the objective to seek that everyone has enough to live with dignity
THIRD: Establish a relationship of care with the creation
FOURTH: Understanding the economy as an opportunity for relationship enhancing reciprocity and mutual aid.
FIFTH: Strengthen the sharing and logic of gift as intrinsic elements to the economic activity
break/pause FOR REFLECTION. in small groups find examples of the economy lived with one of these five keys.
How to realize the good news of the gospels in the economy
to change the economic system and to redirect the economy in another direction is not an easy or quick task. But it is not impossible. We need patience, courage and a lot of work to get it done
You must be aware that anything valuable and good in life is difficult and costly. Nothing that is really important can be obtained without effort.
We can say that it is possible understand the economy in an evangelical way and this is a sign of hope for the economy. We have a good news to give to the economic world
We, Christians trust god and we have his strength to transform the creation and build the reign of god on earth. We, Christians, can and must be the group that show and demonstrate to the world that the economy can be filled with love and put at the service of the people
We can make strength to build that most human economy that our society needs.
To get it I will give you some clues of concrete and feasible roads that can lead us to redirect the economy in the desired direction.
In the first place, go beyond the quality-price relationship. We have to ally ourselves with the other part of the exchange, So that the purchase or the sale is a moment of relationship of reciprocity, of mutual gains
We are interested in the other part of the exchange. We want to know what is beyond the price, if the seller or the producer pays good wages, if they care for the creation, if they generate wealth in their areas. We buy responsibly because we want to collaborate in building a better world.
My second clue is that we have to learn to SETTLE FOR good enough We have not to expect to win more and more money. It is better to be frugal in our economic aspirations. We have to look for just enough to live with dignity.
We have to do this, not only as families or persons, but also as a society. We cannot expect to grow in a unlimited way. We must be aware that this is impossible. We must to change our economic objective and we have to put aside economic growth
Organizing the society to follow this economic objective supposes to recognize the different functions of the public and private sectors, and to put both to work together and to collaborate from their own nature in the achievement of the common good.
This change should also be introduced in the companies. We should lay aside the companies whose major priority is the achievement of maximum benefits and we should promote the companies that prioritize their social function and put the benefit to the service of this social function
The social function of a company prioritizes three issues. First. Produce useful goods and services for society and establish relationships of reciprocity and mutual trust with its clients.
Second: build an organization where the people are the main. An organization that allows their members to get enough income to have a decent life, An organization that allows its members to be more and better persons and to collaborate in the construction of a better world through their work in the company.
Third: the social function implies that business cares for creation and creates wealth and development in the area in which the company is located. It is, therefore, a development factor in its workplace.
Christian economists we have, moreover, the responsibility of building a new economic paradigm that gives theoretical support to a more humane economy in which people are at the center of their performance instead of profits and riches
Summarizing, we need families that live their consumption and their economic day in a different way. Families that seek only what is necessary to live a decent life, with an economic mentality of good enough.
We need companies that put their profitability to the service of their social function. Companies that change their mentality
We need politicians who build an structure of society simple and easy for those who are changing their mentality in this direction, and complicated and difficult for those who support the selfish economy
We need economist that teach and study an economy of gratuity, love and reciprocity. Economist with other mentality.
All of us together, we can promote this economy in evangelical key and build the reign of God in the earth. This is a way to improve and leave the creation in better situation in which we found it.
It is a difficult work, that precise of brave people, it is not going to be achieved in leaps and bounds or in two daysthat needs a lot of time, a lot of patience. But It’s worthwhile work
Even thouch we are minority now, we are a minority with a majority vocation, because we believe that this transformation of the economy is good for everyone. We want to extend the good news of the gospels to the economy and to put the economy to the service of the common good.