Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

An Interview with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove about his new book “God’s Economy” Part III

God's Economy Book CoverToday is the second part of a four part interview with Jonathan about his new book God’s Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel. You can read part one and part two if you missed either one. I will be posting the  fourth part of the interview Thursday. So let’s jump into the on-going conversation.

JR: John Wesley has been quoted as saying “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”  Do you agree with this statement, why or why not?

Jonathan: I like Wesley’s spirit and am inspired by his witness. But his maxim gets misused. Because making all you can by working for a defense contractor often means investing your talent in the technology of killing people. And saving all you can in most banks means investing it in companies that profit by using slave labor. And giving is a form of power that can be abused too—just look at the structural adjustment programs that have been imposed on developing countries by lending agencies. The incredible power of Jesus’ teaching on money is that it doesn’t assume we have to take over in order to implement God’s Economy. We can begin living it in places that seem insignificant. And we can subvert the broken systems of this world without taking charge of them.

JR: Some proverbs in the scripture imply that it is wise to save, does Jesus turn this wisdom on its head or not?

Jonathan: I love the saying of Agur: give me neither poverty or riches. And there’s great stuff in the proverbs about restraint. I don’t think the wisdom of Proverbs is over-turned by Jesus. The key to any proverb is knowing when and how to apply it. Restraint is desperately needed in an economy where a constant stream of advertisements encourage people to become debt slaves for things that they don’t need. We need the proverbs to teach us sales resistance. But that need not make us all good capitalists. We can deny our own desires for the sake of serving others and God’s kingdom. And we can do it because we know it’s the best life possible.

JR: In your chapter on “Eternal Investments” you discourage readers from traditional investing.  What kind of savings do you practice with your income, if any?  What do you suggest for those of us who live in the West?

Jonathan: We save for specific expenses that we’ve decided we need: a new (used) car or a new refrigerator. But we don’t have “savings” in general. There are too many immediate needs right in front of us to just sit on money. We invest it in people who are about to get evicted, in kids who want to go to college, in ministries that make their budget month-to-month. I’m no financial adviser; I don’t have a set giving program that I’m trying to sell people on. But I do believe in God’s Economy. I’m wanting everyone to receive the gift of beloved community by learning to invest in God’s kingdom where they are.

JR: What are some simple ways people can begin to live in the mindset of God’s economy?

Jonathan: I think a personal/family financial inventory is a good place to start. Ask yourself how much you really need to live, and then see what’s left over. Write that number down on a piece of paper, then pray and ask God to show you how you could invest that money for just one month in relationships. Maybe even do this with a small group from your church. Just test it for a month, and see what happens. As someone else said about Christianity more broadly, I don’t think God’s Economy has been tried and found wanting. Too often, it hasn’t been tried.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a graduate of Eastern University and Duke Divinity School. An associate minister at the historically black St. Johns Baptist Church, Jonathan is engaged in peacemaking and reconciliation efforts in Durham, North Carolina, and directs the School for Conversion, an alternative seminary that hosts courses around the country. He is a sought-after speaker and the author of several books including New Monasticism. The Rutba House, where Jonathan lives with his wife, Leah, their son, JaiMichael, and other friends, is a new monastic community that prays, eats, and lives together, welcoming neighbors and the homeless. Take a minute tocheck out his website. Feel free to order God’s Economy, you will be enriched and challenged.

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