the economy of God

Brian McLaren talked yesterday about finding new language to describe the kingdom or realm of God – he suggested, amongst a number of options, the term ‘economy’ of God.

I remember first hearing about the economy of God from Asian theologians at the World Council of Churches meeting back in the early 1990’s, and being intrigued by it. They weren’t using it as a politically correct exchange of words, but they wanted to drag us back into reclaiming the very essence of what Jesus was pointing it to. It’s such a big concept, and to embrace it would threaten pretty much every foundation on which my life is built, and i’m not sure even now that i’m ready to think about it…

but i was just down in the bookshop and i spotted sallie mcfague’s latest book “Life Abundant: rethinking theology and economy for a planet in peril”. It seemed a sign, so i bought it.

I love sallie mcfague. I read “Models of God” back in 1988 when i was studying for a degree in theology. I – literally – cried with relief. It was the first theology i’d ever read that told me of the God I knew. I’d always been intrigued, and indeed often loved, the concepts and ideas of God that other theologians had described, but for the first time someone was describing out loud the God who had been revealed in my life, but who i’d never dared to admit even to myself. I had no idea anyone else knew God in this way… and especially that you could say it out loud.

I found the sentence in “Models of God” that i’ve written out and kept on the wall of my office ever since – “there is a power at work in the universe on the side of life and all its fulfillment”. It’s my statement of faith.

i keep dipping in to read paragraphs of “Life Abundant” when i really should be preparing a labyrinth for ash wednesday…


  1. mike

    I have huge issues with describing these concepts in terms of economics. (These are issues aside from those you know about already!)

    In a similar way, politicians (eg, the current federal incumebents) describe our humansociety in terms of economics. As a long term result of a pervasive economic language, individuals come to think of and value themselves as components of a materialist machine, not as living parts of an inately valuable organic society. As a result, our collective self esteem drops as we benchmark ourselves to ecomonic measures which wil continually shift according. The benchmarks are never attainabale, because the closer we get to them, statistical measurement moves them away again. In an attempt to bring human values to the idea of an economy, we have heard the introduction of terms like “social capital“, a way to measure the economic benefit of social interaction.

    I totally reject the political description of our human society as no more than an economy. I think life, society, human interaction, and spirituality have inate value, not something to be measured in terms of economics.

    My $0.02


  2. Cheryl

    remember to put $0.02 less into the collection plate next time you go to church.

    and yes, i think you’re absolutely right.

  3. craig mitchell

    I resonate with lots of what you say, but my understanding is that people have talked about “social capital” as a way of arguing with capitalists that they have left people and their value to society out of the equation. robert putnam in “bowling alone” was denouncing the effects of capitalism and consumerism on community. what is disturbing is how quickly conservative governments have picked up on the term as a way to help measure and manage their perceived social obligations. i’m saying that it the best sense, i don’t think people use “social capital” to measure anything economically, but to point out what others’ measurements in fact ignore.

    a pity that the modern word economy is I suspect nothing like the grek equivalent (oikumene or however you spell it)

    from a reformed economist….

  4. The economy of God is measured in abundance not lack. on increase not scacity. it is banked in Heaven not earth. we gain in it when we give away stuff not horde. especially to those who can’t give us back anything in return.

    The Kingdom oF God is righteousness peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost. the things that cannot be measured in dollars and cents (or sense). when we do anything to the least of these humans we did it to the king.

    Every paw paw tree in God’s economy has hundreds of seed in them every mango tree has hundreds of mangoes with seeds in them with trees in those seeds with hundreds of mangoes on those trees and seed in those fruits

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