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Sharing helps undo my inner Han Solo and George Costanza
Rod tweeted the other day that “alternativity,” a term that we’ve thrown around a lot in Circle of Hope over the last year (just search my posts to see how much I’ve been talking about it), is just that, a word, if it doesn’t have a common purse. One of the most radical things Christians can do in this capital-dominated world is share our money in common. I've been thinking a lot about it since our Leadership Team started talking about it last Monday at our meeting.
When our leaders offer us the vision for the community, they explain why our Common Fund and sharing in it is elemental to what we are doing. You can think of all the practical reasons that sharing money in common is important—but more than just paying for buildings and staff, sharing our money in common has theological and cosmic implications. In that spirit, here are four reasons why I do it and why I encourage you to as well.
Sharing my money rids me of its shackles. The writer of 1 Timothy famously tells his audience that the love of money is the root of all evil. With all of the damage that the love of money has caused in the world, his statement is an absolute no-brainer. Learning that we are not the sole possessors of our money and don’t “control” it all is a helpful way to free ourselves of the addiction and enslavement that money can bring to us. The tighter we hold on it to it, the more we can learn to love it, and the evil and greed that follows can be detrimental.
Sharing my money helps me know that I am not alone. I relate to a lot of people who think they have to do it on their own. Not just their finances, but their entire life. They buy the American myth that they need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and go it alone. We herald figures like this in the American story. We love lone stars, and we even name our heroes after them. Consider Han Solo. When we think we need to do it alone, we can definitely stifle our capacity to be generous. Moreover, fear can rule our lives! Fear of debt, fear of losing our jobs or our homes, our very livelihood. Sharing in common frees us of this ungodly individualism. We no longer need to just look out for ourselves, we look out for each other. We have each other’s backs. You are not alone.
Sharing my money in common disrupts capitalism (and its cousin “philanthropy”). I’ve been watching my favorite “Seinfeld” episode a lot lately. It’s called “The Strike.” Most famously it is known for Frank Costanza’s made-up Christmas replacement, Festivus. But a great side-plot is George’s fake Christmas gift. He offers his friends cards that show that he’s made a contribution to The Human Fund on their behalf. George is touting his own philanthropy with a fake contribution. One scene shows us the potential danger of charitable contributions in the capitalist landscape (yes, I am probably overblowing this). Here’s the telling quote, pardon the language:
“I think I could be a philanthropist. A [great] philanthropist! I would have all this money and people would love me. Then they would come to me and beg! And if I felt like it, I would help them out and then they would owe me big time! The first thing I’m going to need is a driver.” — George Costanza.
George is being generous purely for selfish reasons, isn't he? He makes charity more about status than about love. It may go without saying that you aren’t as hyperbolically self-centered as George is (or any “Seinfeld” character for that matter), but if we see our charitable contributions as merely tax deductions or a kind of “purchase” amidst myriad options, we aren’t really undoing the free market domination. We are playing into it. Radical discipleship and commitment to the Body and the common good is subversive in its nature. It disrupts capitalism and helps to create an alternative to it.
Sharing my money helps me to live out God’s vision for the world. Not all the passages in the Bible about money are as condemning as the one from 1 Timothy above. When we look to Acts 2, we see a beautiful vision for the Church. Right after the Spirit fell upon them during Pentecost (in flaming tongues), the early church was motivated to share all things in common, including their money. God’s harshest judgment came to those who didn’t. Rather than being afraid of judgment, we may want to look at the radical vision for the world that the early church modeled. Can we be that radical too? I think so. Sharing our money gives us a place to start.
I’ll end there for now. There’s more reasons to share and more ways that sharing is transformative. What do you think?