The economy of God and Jesus’ missional imperatives – Jubilee, Jesus, and the Gift


God’s creation is a stupendous gift. But, Jacques Derrida has contended that all recognised-gifting creates social obligation such that the Gift is, according to him, actually an economic matter and a gift cannot actually be given. But, if creation does point us to the possibility of the Gift, then a major critique of our economics follows. The Gift challenges the economic. Only by the Gift may enslavement to our economics be disrupted.

Jesus redefined the economic, in terms of the Gift, in the light of Jubilee. Notwithstanding the grave dangers of wealth that Jesus stressed, Jesus affirms wealth’s utility and the right place of proper economic participation. Wealth is a gift that enables responsibility. For Jesus, economic relations, as Gift, are an expression of the social shape of love made concrete. The ethics of the coming “kingdom” of God, that Jesus inaugurated, seek a practice of human flourishing that is vastly different from our economics of growth and depletion.

Yahweh’s Sabbath Year and Jubilee provisions are at the heart of God’s will that there will be economic, social, and environmental justice, producing shalom. Jubilee points us to the economy of God. Jubilee is about benevolent and just habitation – habitation in creation and society. Jubilee implies the recognition that, ultimately, all proper debt is debt to, and therefore debt before, God. The narrative in which the game of our objectified debt is located is in marked contrast to the story of God and God’s economy.

Jesus inaugurates the Gift and as a consequence radicalises Jubilee. It was Jesus’ intention that his followers should form Jubilee-living cells; local expressions of his “called-out ones”, his “church”. Therefore, we who would follow him are called to seek ways of living the same Jubilee-shaped, communitarian, lives. The living out of Jubilee is impelled by what Ezekiel calls a new heart of flesh, in contrast to the heart of stone which had come to characterise the old economy, as Jesus seems to have seen it.

The Gift is inalienable and participative. The Gift is not an alienable thing to be exchanged. Rather, it is something participated in by both the giver and receiver. The Gift is not exhausted in the giving. If a gift is a thing obtained by exchange then it becomes a possession and ceases to be a gift. But, the Gift is not part of the economy of exchange and debt. Rather, the Gift is the overarching shape of the inalienable divine hospitality. Authentic economics cannot be driven by what we deem to be “growth”, growth that, paradoxically, depletes. Economics must arise out of the sustained and sustaining Gift.

To the virtuous, being covenantally obligated is not a task, a chore, a burdensome labour; rather proper obligation is a joy, a gift of the Gift!

Jesus offers the active rest of Jubilee life as our own most “natural” and therefore happiest way of being. If we are to live at all, it can only be by living sustainably. If we are to live sustainably the rich must divest themselves and give the wealth, with which they cloak themselves, to the poor. There must be disinvestment from extractive, exploitative, idolatry of economic growth. We must invest in structures that are sustainable, in an ecology that sustains.

Man thinks, ‘cause he rules the earth, he can do with it as he please
And if things don’t change soon, he will.
Oh, man has invented his doom;
First step was touching the moon.

Now there’s a woman on my block;
She just sit there as the night grows still.
She say who gonna take away his license to kill?

Bob Dylan, “License to Kill” Infidels, Columbia, 1983.

  1. Many imperatives are trivial. Some are big – they arise socially out of core values and purposes at the foundations of worldviews. Personally, imperatives license actions. Things that licence are at the integrating centre of what philosopher, Willard Quine, called webs of belief. [1]
  2. Jesus is the climax of God’ story, the key expression of God’s providential economy. Therefore, Jesus’ take on the economic is pivotal. To follow Jesus is to have his teaching at the centre of one’s web of belief, such that he integrates understanding and conditions one’s practice.
  3. The beginning of Psalm 24 frames what I want to say in this paper:

    The earth is Yahweh’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
    for Yahweh founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.[2]

  4. The economy of God is God’s faithful, overarching, administration of things, entailing God’s heart concern for rightness, justice, and reconciliation. The economy of God is a complex and widely integrating theological theme. In this paper we touch only on some of the expressions of this theme. A sketch of the theme is provided in the framing paper for this colloquium.

Section 1. The Gift

A philosophy of abundance

Currently, there is a popularist buzz about the need for a “philosophy of abundance”, in contrast to a “philosophy of scarcity”. The discussion goes back at least to Plato,[3] indeed, back further to the biblical Pentateuch and the provisions of Jubilee recorded in Leviticus 25, and reflected, both textually and subtextually, in many places through the complex biblical narrative and related canonical writings. At the beginning of modernity the discussion was touched upon in Blaise Pascal’s thoughts as he pondered the vastness of the universe and “Man’s” place in it.[4]

While, traditionally, capitalism has created and controlled scarcity, a new capitalist take is to reassert a confidence in abundance; at least rhetorically.[5]

Such confidence might be a commendable expression of humble trust, leading to liberative practice – indeed the rhetoric of abundance-ism frequently commends liberality and giving from a-what-goes-around-comes-around or a positive karmic take on the matter. But, the danger is that the rhetoric is used to encourage the further extractive exploitation of the environment, since there is said to be really an “abundance” of resources.

The rhetoric of abundance, removed from a proper foundation in adequate ethics, is not trust – it remains unfaith and selfishness.[6] The rhetoric is frequently no more than manipulative; a modern shamanism that cloaks reality, obscuring inconvenient truth, replacing it with the power of placebo.

The attitude behind the rhetoric has scant regard for sustainability. Indeed, the rhetoric of abundance is being used to avoid the all too real matter of finite resources. Removed from its proper foundation, the philosophy of abundance is a groundless impression of confidence. If there is any actual confidence in it, it is an overstretched and grasping confidence in the self. It is an atheism.

But the abundant provisions of the biblical Jubilee are grounded in proper, modest, confidence. Jubilee arises from a countercultural, God-grounded, “philosophy” of abundance, a philosophy that places proper respect for creation, as a gift of God, at the centre of the distinctive web of beliefs that arose as the proper response to Yahweh’s self-revelation given to the Israelites, their ancestors and their descendants – descendants, both “physical” and “spiritual”.

Such respect for God and God’s provision generates specific imperatives aimed at promoting: the conservation of the environment, the fruitfulness of creation, and the proper, just flourishing of all creatures, including human beings in their creational and societal embedding.

The plenteous provisions of Jubilee, which Jesus’ mission recalls, sought to set the concrete conditions that facilitate a social – and therefore personal – mindset of plenty, empathy, forgiveness, compassion, and liberation. God’s Jubilee provision directly countered the prevailing culture of scarcity resulting in: selfishness, the failure to empathise, the failure to forgive, the failure to be compassionate, and the failure to liberate.[7]

We don’t have to be a full-blown Hobbesians to see that, given the human condition, if one doesn’t trust God, one must trust only oneself – if one does not trust God, there is no one else to trust; there is no one in whom to place proper confidence. But if one trusts God, the maker and sustainer of all, that trust liberates one to place proper confidence in others too, notwithstanding the human condition and human selfishness.

The Gift
I too want to talk about the Gift. Raymond Pelly, in his paper opening this colloquium, has put the matter of the Gift in a nutshell. I wish to explore the Gift as a core theme of what I have to say.

Creation, made effortlessly by Jesus’ god, is God’s good and free gift. We say “‘free’ gift”, but the word “free” is surely redundant. What is a gift if it is not free?

God’s creation is a stupendous gift, surpassed only by the gift of Godself, to us, in Jesus Christ. However, our creation-exploiting economics focuses us on the cost of goods, the ways we might minimise those costs, and the ways we might, thereby, maximise our profits.

We say that there is no free lunch. Yet, creation points us to the possibility of what, for us, is apparently impossible – the possibility of the Gift.
Jacques Derrida highlighted an issue that John Milbank addresses with the question, “Can a gift be given?”[8] Derrida noted that all recognised gifting creates social obligation entailing the expectation that one to whom a gift is given should reciprocate.[9] So, it seems that all human gift-giving comes with an obligation, with a price – it seems that the Gift is actually economic.[10]

Perhaps the Gift is simply a cultural fiction by which we disguise obligation and dress up debt so as to be more comfortable with the web of economic “realities” in which we are ensnared – a similar function of fiction as it is employed in advertising.

So, is “gift” a word like “unicorn”, connoting a fiction without real referent, or do we yet know about the Gift as a reality?

Is creation really God’s gift? If creation does point us to the possibility of the Gift, then a major critique of our economics follows.

The Gift ruptures
The Gift challenges the economic. In the Gift there is no utu, no reciprocal enslaving obligation, no karma-like imperative of payback. A gift, as a gift, is utterly free. The authentic gift-giver expects nothing in return; though, to hint at where we are heading, the Gift invites, indeed entails, participation.

However, in the moment we intuit the unconditioned and unconditional character of a gift, we instinctively recoil from receiving such a thing, and also from authentic gift-giving.

Yet, mothers give their bodies to their children without reserve and without expecting reciprocation. The gift of a baby ruptures the body. The new creation breaks things open. Babies freely receive knowing nothing of the Gift, as a gift; and older children, knowingly receive gifts, often joyously, without feeling uncomfortable. Yet, adults feel uncomfortable, trapped in obligation. Jesus said, “… except you become as little children …” We must be born again as Israel was born, from above, in her children, in the exodus.[11]

We recoil from receiving gifts because we are still taking account of them economically. But, more deeply, we recoil from the Gift because the Gift ruptures our control, our technologies, our self-protections and manipulations. If we knowingly received a gift we feel the universally-found cultural pressure to reciprocate in some way, so as to retain the feeling of control. But, in reciprocating, we destroy the gift, as Gift.

So, “Can a gift be given?” It seems that it can’t. Derrida said that the only possibility of giving a gift lies in a donation that is not known to be a gift (note that Matthew 6:1-4 records Jesus’ imperative to give anonymously). Still, said Derrida, we should try to do the impossible and gift-give anyway. Only by the Gift may enslavement to our economics be disrupted, only by the gift may our control, our exploitive technologies and manipulations be questioned radically. The Gift is rooted in something other than our economics.

Jesus redefined the economic in terms of the Gift
In discussing Jesus and the economy of God, Derrida’s exploration of the Gift is significant because he contrasts the Gift with the economic. However, I think, Jesus has a somewhat different take on the matter.

I think that the biblical motif of Jubilee is central to Jesus’ self-understanding and mission – see below the section of this paper entitled “Jesus inaugurates the Gift”. In the light of Jubilee, Jesus’ did not so much contrast the economic with the Gift as he redefined the economic in terms of Gift. Notwithstanding the grave dangers of wealth that Jesus stressed, Jesus affirms wealth’s obvious utility and the right place of proper economic participation. This is to say that proper wealth – wealth that is not ill-gotten – is a gift, the receipt of which enables one to give joyously and abundantly, in response to God who is the abundant provider of the Gift.[12] Of course, this is in line with the overarching take of the Tanahk on wealth. In a nutshell, Jesus reminds his followers, in radically Deuteronomistic fashion,[13] that proper economic life should be a major means whereby we may concretely express trust in God as the source of all goods and participate in God’s provision for all, as agents of that provision.[14]

The following is a summary of Jesus’ core imperatives and comments about wealth, utterances that imply Jesus’ core view of the economic – the reader is encourage to consult and consider the wider context in which each comment is embedded.

  • Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for, yourselves, treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[15]
  • Matthew 25:34-40“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”
  • Mark 10:21“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”
  • Mark 12:43-44“Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.’”
  • Luke 6:24“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.”
  • Luke 12:15“Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’”
  • Luke 14:33 “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

It is not possible to consider, herein, Jesus’ missional imperatives singularly or to sample any more than one or two for further attention. But, on Jesus’ own account, there is less need for such attention than one might suppose. Jesus said that the imperative to love sums up the Law and the prophets. Therefore, Jesus’ imperatives each participate in a single aim; the concrete practice of love. Biblically, the concrete social practice of love is inextricably bound to the sensibilities and values expressed in the overarching expectations that come to focus in Jubilee. Jubilee is the doorframe upon which the Law and the prophets are hinged. In line with a prevalent 2nd Temple Jewish understanding, Jesus summed up the Law and the prophets as love of God and love of one’s fellow humans as oneself. Matthew’s Gospel records that,

.. one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”[16]

Therefore, for Jesus, all human activity – and therefore all economic activity – is to be motivated by love, and right economic activity is a vital means of expressing love. For Jesus, economic relations are an expression of the social shape of love made concrete; love, expressed economically, requires wholehearted commitment, rather than the mere observance of externalised duty. It is not about our making a gift of some of what we think we have to spare, or what is externally prescribed. It is about the whole of life offered thankfully without reserve.

Mark’s Gospel, records that,

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”[17]
So, for Jesus, the economic is not an end in itself as it is for modern capitalist economies. Nor is the economic the means of making some rich, great, and rulers over many others, as it was and is in ancient and contemporary imperialistic appropriations of resources. Rather, for Jesus, the economic serves love and liberation, justice and peace.

In that way, for Jesus, the economic is an expression of right service to God; it is a way in which we participate in God’s good, loving, administration, a way of ordering things, including our lives, that looks to the coming kingdom of God. For Jesus, God’s coming kingdom critiques and corrects our economic activities. The kingdom of God – not the kingdoms, the principalities, and powers, of this world – is the paradigm for our wealth-gaining and money-making. The kingdom of God is the kingdom of love and judges the kingdoms of selfish desires.

Only by the Gift may enslavement to our economics be disrupted, for only the Gift is rooted in something sustaining – something, someone, other than our ultimately impersonal and exploitative, destructive, economics.

… God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that those trusting sustainedly in him shall not perish but shall have the life of God. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to heal the world through him.[18]

Section 2. Jubilee

Jubilee, Jesus, and the kingdom of God
In response to Derrida, John McAteer asks rhetorically the simple question, “What if we give gifts out of love instead of obligation?”[19] The text of the biblical Jubilee is a web of concretely-focused imperatives embedded in a particular ancient agrarian context; but for all the objectivity and concrete character of those imperatives, they are as much aimed at the hearts of the readers and hearers of the biblical text as they are objective social prescriptions. Therefore, the Jubilee text may be read as connoting and commending the social shape of love; that is, love made concrete in community.

Jubilee is a pivotal theme of the Tanakh. Jubilee is the doorframe upon which the Law and the prophets are hinged. The ethics implied by Jubilee seek a practice of human flourishing that is vastly different from our economics of growth and depletion. However, the ethics of God’s Jubilee entail a no less material understanding of human flourishing.

Jubilee is not airy fairy. It is certainly not pie in the sky when you die. Jubilee is a this-worldly complex of ethical imperatives concerning the proper embedding of humans in the concrete, material realities of right community and responsible consumption. Jubilee is predicated upon the understanding that Yahweh, the creator, alone is king and that the creator’s righteous will, will done. Yahweh wills liberation, justice, fruitfulness and shalom.

Jubilee presumes that,

… as liberated slaves … [the Israelites] will not seek in their economic practices to enslave others, and as people of covenant they will display in their common life the beneficence and justice that God has bestowed on them.[20]

The provisions of Jubilee are set out in Leviticus chapter 25.[21] Within the context of overarching creation and culture, the chapter makes particular the more aphoristic and general imperatives concerning property and possession that are central to the Torah.[22] In the biblical narrative, the provisions of Jubilee follow out from the gifting of the land of promise by God to Israel’s tribes according to need. Jubilee is framed by the God-enabled escape of the Israelites from enslavement in Egypt. Their bondage to ceaseless labour is contrasted with the abundant, liberative, provision of God such that creation as a whole, and people in particular, need no longer be subjugated and depleted.

The original Jubilee provisions may be summarised as follows.

  • One year in 7 the land was to have a year of rest and lie fallow. No planting or organised reaping was to be done. Whatever grew without cultivation was to be the Israelites food. As a Sabbath rest, the people were to trust in God’s provision during the year and for the subsequent year of replanting.
    This imperative echoes the weekly Sabbath rest instituted in the exodus, the paradigm narrative of Israel’s liberation from social, economic and “spiritual” enslavement.
  • In the Sabbath year all debt was to be cancelled and “slaves” were to be set free (cf. Deuteronomy 15).
  • Once every 50 years the Year of Jubilee – a Sabbath of Sabbaths – was to be celebrated, starting on the Day of Atonement, the sacred day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to atone for all (and any surd of) sin in Israel, indeed, in all creation.
  • Again, in the Year of Jubilee, there was to be no organised sowing or reaping.
  • Again, in the Year of Jubilee, slaves were to be set free.
  • The Year of Jubilee reset the social, environmental, and economic conditions. Property, particularly land, was to return to its original God-designated familial use. Therefore, the means of production was understood not as an alienable commodity, but as on lease, ultimately from God – the land was to be understood as an inalienable public asset.With respect to the means of production exclusivist (“private”) property is an idolatry that gets in the way of God’s socially-expressed character and intentions.
  • The lease-hold value of land was to be relative to the number of years until the next Jubilee.

It is of note that, “… in the Sabbath year, all Israel returned to the original state of creation, sharing equally with the animals whatever grew of itself from the earth.”[23] There are major ecological implications in the Sabbath and Jubilee economic imperatives. The egalitarianism of Jubilee runs deeper that between human sisters and brothers, it includes animals, indeed all creation.[24]

Yahweh’s Sabbath Year and Jubilee provisions are at the heart of God’s will that there shall be economic, social, and environmental justice, producing shalom. The practice of Jubilee was to be a celebration, in creation, of God’s goodness. It was to generate jubilation; the people were to express the joy of God’s justice, God’s liberation, God’s Gift. But, it is widely held that Israel’s failure to heed God’s Jubilee imperatives, her failure to practice Sabbath rest, liberation, and socio-economic redistribution is at the core of the prophetic complaint, particularly against the Israelite kings and their officials.[25]

The prophets denounced injustice arising from the depleting practice of idolatry. The marriage of exploitation and idolatry forms an unholy matrix, the critique of which is the primary target of the social polemics in the biblical narrative. Eventually, that critique gave rise to Israel’s messianic hope. Hence, Jesus Christ’s mission and teaching are embedded in that critique.

The spirit level
When Jubilee is read from a post-Enlightenment, socialist, perspective one might naïvely think that the singular aim of Jubilee is a new and better deal for the poor and perhaps some protection for the environment. The Marxist-minded may see the return of the land to its tribal apportionment of Jubilee as a primitive but confused recognition that the workers should control the means of production. The egalitarianism of Jubilee might seem to be almost a byproduct of securing some justice for the otherwise poor. However, Jubilee is not to be seen in terms of class war of competing interest between workers and owners, between slaves and masters. Rather, the key point of Jubilee is that no human is master and no human is owner. Yahweh – maker of heaven and earth, God alone – is the only owner, the only Lord and master. And a fortiori, Yahweh’s infinite capacity enables God’s ownership and overlordship to be totally benevolent, completely for the other. Before Yahweh, both the human rich and human poor are equally naked. It is Yahweh alone who clothes and feeds and blesses each and all. This egalitarianism is undeconstructably radical. At its root, both poor and rich are answerable and justice with respect to both otherwise “separate” “groups” is holistic. The good for the poor is good for all.

In their recent book The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson – professor of medical epidemiology at Nottingham University – and Kate Pickett – lecturer in epidemiology at York University – stress that it is not just the poor who suffer from the various consequences of inequality; the majority of society suffers. Their conclusion, arising from socio-economic and epidemiological research is that more equal societies almost always do better for all.[26] Conversely, the effects on societies of inequality are: an erosion of trust, increased anxiety and illness, and the encouragement of excessive consumption, resulting in both decreased human health and increased environmental degradation.

The question Wilkinson and Pickett sought to investigate is: Why do health issues within a population get progressively worse further down the social scale? Their breakthrough came when they put the extensive epidemiological medical data they had gathered alongside figures showing the extent of economic inequality within countries. They plotted the level of health and social problems against the level of income-inequality in twenty of the world’s richest nations, and in each of the fifty states of the United States of America. They found that in states and countries where there is a big gap between the incomes of rich and poor there is a markedly significant prevalence of: mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, teenage pregnancy, etc., as well as a higher rate of homicide. Also where there is a big gap between the incomes of rich and poor life expectancy is shorter and children’s literacy and educational performance is impaired.

Wilkinson and Pickett record that Japan and the countries of Scandinavian are societies that have the smallest differences between higher and lower incomes and the best psycho-social health. Whereas, societies such Britain, North America, and Portugal – where the wealth gap is great – have the highest incidence of most health and social problems.

The societies evidencing highest incidence of health and social problems are high stress societies where both poor and rich are under major, though different, social pressure to seek material gain.[27] Wilkinson and Pickett find that societies where incomes are relatively equal have low levels of stress and high levels of trust, such that people feel secure and see others as co-operative. But in unequal societies, the rich fear the poor while, at the same time, people lower down the social order experience anxiety about their status. The poor tend to resent the successful rich – they view the rich with bitterness and think of themselves with shame.

Wilkinson and Pickett’s central assertion that more equal societies almost always do better for all, and their insight that where things are relatively equal people feel secure and see others as co-operative, may not be restricted to relatively well off but, nevertheless, egalitarian situations. It seems that it is not the level of material comfort so much as it is participation in non-stratified community that counts.

Since it is participation – not a high position on some absolutised scale of material wealth or plenty – that seems to count in producing wellness/shalom, one is reminded of a recent media view of slum life in Mumbai that challenges liberal progressive sensibilities. Although it has been dubbed “poverty porn”, the British 2011, Channel 4, series, Slumming It, presented by Kevin McCloud, makes the point that Mumbai’s very squalid Dharavi slum is actually a major example of egalitarian “social sustainability”. Despite the hardships of life in the slum there is a high degree of general happiness and very low levels of crime. The documentary presents the slum’s extraordinary sense of spirit and community and reflects what can be learnt from its sustainable society. The key to shalom is not material wealth per se, but rather a level in society of good spirit. Here is perhaps part of what Jesus meant by saying, “Blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Wilkinson and Pickett’s understanding is a good reason to stop thinking that increasing GDP is the way to make everyone happy and the world a better place. Certainly, their findings dispel one key capitalist contention that the super-rich are a social asset we all should cherish and protect.

As noted, Jubilee is the doorframe upon which the Law and the prophets are hinged. Jesus – who referred to himself as “the door”[28] – summed up the Law and the prophets as love of God and love of one’s fellow humans as oneself.[29] Jesus’ self-sacrificial life and death is the paradigm of such an attitude of life practice. Hence, he is the door and the way into the economy of God, the right administration of the world, God’s coming kingdom.

Password, you, enter here, right now …[30]

The Jubilee text may be read as connoting the social shape of love; that is, love made concrete in community. Indeed, it is to be noted that it is of the nature of love that it is necessarily communitarian. The gender complementarity between man and woman – noted in Genesis 1:26-27 – is the primal, and in some ways paradigmatic, human community. Genesis 2:24ff. indicates the vinculum amoris (the bond of love) between husband and wife. To note that first God, in and for God and then for us, is Triune community is to indicate the Spirit who is supremely the vinculum amoris.

Love is not reducible to a reciprocated duty; indeed, we have noted here that love is a relationship, a bond, the bond of love. The vinculum amoris is a concrete relationship in which lover and loved, loved and lover participate, not a duty undertaken. Love is positive relationship in action. From the position of the authentic lover, love is a selfless outgoing of the heart to and for the other.[31] This is so even though love embeds lovers in covenant with consequential responsibilities – the responsibility of love is a matter that has the shape of duty – though it is not the same as duty;[32] it is not a duty, it is a joy.

The ethics of the coming “kingdom” of God, that Jesus inaugurated, seek a practice of human flourishing that is vastly different from our economics of growth and depletion. Yet, it must be stressed, the love ethics of God’s Jubilee kingdom entail a no less material understanding of human flourishing. Therefore, Jubilee points us to the economy of God.

Section 3. The economy of God

God’s administration and hospitality
When considering God’s overarching providence and wise outworking of purpose, theologians speak of God’s economy. The economy of God is God’s faithful, overarching administration of things, entailing God’s heart concern for rightness, justice, and reconciliation.

Our word “economy” comes from the Greek – ho oikos – meaning “the house”, a household, and indicates a space of sustaining inclusion, a habitation. The word oikos denotes the wise parental administration of a household for the good of all involved, including servants.

Further, from consideration of ho oikos as indicating habitation, we are reminded of the fittedness, the rightness (righteousness and justice) of creatures fitted for life in some ecological habitat. An economy is a habitation, a habitat – it is no surprise in the biblical view of things that the human economy and matters of ecological habitat should be bound inextricably together. The Sabbath rest of the land in the seventh and on the Jubilee years is an indication of the inextricable links among economy and ecology, creation and covenant. It is a modern mistake, arising within our truncating utilitarian web of belief, that leaves out the ecological from economic considerations.

We note that 1 Timothy chapter 1, warns against promoting humanly generated “speculations, rather than advancing the economy of God [he oikonomian theou] that is undertaken in trust”.[33] I put it that our market economy is such a speculation of great and controlling proportion, a speculation we have reified and to which we, and our social and ecological environments, have become enslaved.

Note the Jubilee-echoing economic language Paul uses concerning salvation in Romans 6: particularly in verses 22 and 23.

… you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Because God’s economy is the kindly provision of proper habitation – habitation that, from Genesis to Revelation, has the shape of Immanuel, “God with us” – God’s incarnational indwelling and communitarian being in Trinity are quintessential expressions of the theme.

Jubilee is about benevolent and just habitation – habitation in creation and society. Hence, we should understand the imperatives of Jesus’ mission as aiming at right habitation of humans with God in creation. God’s coming kingdom entails the joyous, jubilant, celebration of generous divine hospitality.

Certainly, the report recorded at John 12:8 of Jesus saying “the poor will always be with you” was made in the context of a generous, super-abundant gift and was designed to correct a merely materialistic, politically simplistic – something that perhaps we might call a proto-Marxist – take on the use of wealth.

Judas’ view of wealth may be taken to have been politically simplistic. Judas’ politics seem to have been one dimensionally material; a case can be made for understanding that Judas’ motivation as arising from his single-minded attention to money. Judas was not motivated by love. He did not understand the woman’s love for Jesus; Judas did not understand the Gift. This suggests why Judas seems to have been impatient with Jesus for not taking decisive, militaristic, revolutionary, action. Judas “betrayal” of Jesus may be seen as an attempt either to force Jesus’ hand, or to facilitate what Judas could well have taken to be Jesus’ plan to ambush the Temple guard in the Garden of Gethsemane and thereby precipitate the final conflagration resulting in the victory of Yahweh against Israel’s oppressors.

Be that as it may, Jesus’ comment evidences a wry reminder to the politically simplistic that Jubilee is always necessary. The poor will always need Jubilee as will the rich. Jubilee is no interim measure that will wither away as a politically-constructed utopia arises. An utopia of our making is not the habitation for which we are aimed. Rather, in its deep structure, Jubilee has the shape of Immanuel, “God with us”. It is not our efforts, our engineering, our growth and progress, it is his indwelling, his love, that makes the difference.

The deconstruction of debt
We are inextricably embedded in the economic. All are each other’s debtors. Consider the national debt of the United States of America at this time!

Time, May 9, 2011, carried an article entitled, “You are what you owe.” It is as if we each have become identified with and by the credit card we “own”. There is something demonic in reifying the negative, in being identified by an absence – there is something demonic about generating power out of absence. The full circle – indeed, full spiral – downward, of this is to make a debt, an absence, known and publicly useable. The name of the game is to make another’s debt explicitly known and quantified – especially debt to oneself – while using status and economic power to keep hidden one’s own indebtedness. The economy that turns upon hiding in the absence, while identifying the other as a debt that owes, is unmistakably Mephistophelian.

But, in the Sabbath year all debt was to be cancelled and “slaves” were to be set free. Once every 50 years the Year of Jubilee – a Sabbath of Sabbaths – was to be celebrated, starting on the Day of Atonement, the sacred day when the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to atone for all in all.

Jubilee entails the recognition that ultimately all proper debt is debt to, and therefore debt before, God – God whose Gift it is to cancel debt completely by taking on all indebtedness and absorbing all debt within God’s plenteous self. The Jubilee motif is at the heart of the fullness of God’s Trinitarian life wherein the theology of the cross is embedded.[34]

Now, there’s a woman on my block;
She just sit there facing the hill.
She say who gonna take away his license to kill?[35]

The joy of Jubilee is ultimately grounded participation in the love-life of God. God is love. God is self-sufficient, sustainable, personal provision in Trinity: God in God in God; God for God for God; God through God through God … Indeed, such fullness knows no limits. Therefore, the infinity of God makes space for finite creation, embedded in God’s fullness.

Any real debt in creation presupposes, and is embedded in, God’s fullness. The supremely expansive divine fullness is ultimately concretely cruciform. As Jürgen Moltmann has famously contended, it is on the cross of Christ that God’s eternal, interpersonal, life is stretched out and structured; therein the infinite span of God’s inter-Trinitarian self-separation is eternally generated.[36] It is within and from that concrete infinity that the Lord God – Yahweh Elohim – becomes Yahweh Yireh – the Lord provides – not just for Abraham and Isaac, but for all creation – God through God through God for the world …

Where there is a price to be paid, a debt to be remitted, a gift to be given, ultimately it is Yahweh who provides. It is thankfulness for that overarching and ultimate provision that must motivate us. If it does not, we remain enslaved to our debt, such that we remain in our minds licensed to kill.

So, the narrative in which the game of our objectified debt is located is in marked contrast to the story of God’s coming kingdom and economy of God it fulfils.

… your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.[37]

Listen to a bit of Jesus’ Jubilee-shaped teaching as it is recorded in Luke’s Gospel.

30 Give to everyone who asks of you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.* Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.[38]

These nutshell imperatives get to the kernel of the provisions of Jubilee. Jesus’ take on the economic is to radicalise, as Gift-facilitating, the core intent of those provisions. Yet, out of the fear of famine[39] – fear arising from unbelief – we seek to retain the feeling of control by shunning the Gift. Instead, we seek succour from Mammon.[40] But Jubilee calls us to trust in God’s beneficent administration of creation – that is, to trust in God’s economy.

Section 4. The matter of Mammon

Money matters; money counts
Ours is not a cashless barter society. We cannot escape money. But, even in barter societies, where the issue is not money per se, the issue is wealth and power and their use.

It is not that wealth is bad of itself; wealth is good! Throughout the Tanahk we see that wealth may indicate God’s blessing. The Deuteronomistic emphasis is that wealth is God’s blessing. Of course, that is why poverty is an evil to be opposed for the sake of loving justice! Jesus’ beatitude that says the poor in spirit are blessed must not be taken to mean that poverty itself is a blessing; it is an evil. The poor are blessed because, in being poor, they do not mistake wealth as something that comes from their own labours, one’s own effort. The poor work hard, but their labours do not make them wealthy! The poor, unlike the rich, are in the best position to understand that wealth is a gift, a gift given to all by God. If there are poor it isn’t because God does not bless them. It is because greedy, lustful, men have appropriated the Gift and are not releasing it as a blessing to all.[41]

So, wealth is a gift that enables responsibility. Creational goods are bestowed generally and, through prudence, people may become wealthy. But the pervasive space for effort and creativity that enables wealth to arise exists in large part so that the initially less wealthy and less able may be cared for, nurtured, and empowered by the initially more fruitful. The aim is that all should become appropriately wealthy by wise and properly restrained human enterprise framed and motivated by the recognition of the Gift.[42]

But, what of the biblical warnings about money and Mammon?

Mammon is not simply money and wealth per se; rather, Mammon is enslaving wealth generated by some, for some, at the expense of many others.
Paul’s understanding of money as the token of wealth is consistent with both Jesus’ take on money and the broad sweep of the biblical narrative’s message about wealth and monetary exchange. Paul noted that the love of money is the root of all evils.[43] It is not money per se, but the love, the idolatrous desire for, and attachment to, money, that is the radix of evil. Paul, with Jesus, knew that money really counts in the struggle between good and ill.

Mike Enright has asked rhetorically, “Why is the love of money such an issue, such a concern, such a danger for followers of Jesus?” Enright answers, “Because the love of money is actually the love of power and control, control that ceases to acknowledge God’s proper power, God’s all-able sustaining and guidance.”[44]

In his insightful socio-economic critique of capitalist control, Karl Marx understood not only that money alienates, but that it is used specifically to alienate and thereby control power. Through the possession of money we distance ourselves from others by placing money exchange between ourselves and other people. By possessing money one believes one has power over one’s situation, a fortiori over others, in the manmade and alienating space of monetary exchange.

Sums of money are the tokens of power. However, power, the ability to do, is no bad thing per se. It is what one does that counts. To use the power, which money confers, to alienate is destructive. But, to use that power to reconcile, restore, and heal is positively liberating.[45] In the biblical scheme of things where in love for ones neighbour is seen prophetically as key, the wealthy undertake the redistribution of the wealth entrusted to them for egalitarian ends, and thereby participate in administrating God’s providential blessing. Indeed, participation in the joyous mission of redistributing wealth for egalitarian ends is both why the initially wealth are blessed, and ultimately how they are blessed. By participating in the redistribution of entrusted wealth for egalitarian ends, one participates in God’s administration, God’s economy.

But, although neither power nor money per se is the problem, moneys are the tokens of power and they, themselves, become so entangled in our lust the very image of money comes to have negative psychological power. In capitalist culture money is a powerful fetish[46] – arguably the tokens of money are fetish objects in all cultures in which such tokens operate.[47]

But we cannot escape money. Nor should we wish to do so! Money counts. It is what we do for, and with, money, how we gain and use our power, and what attitude we have to power, that matters. Do we use money, wealth, for God, for the good of creation, for the furtherance of others in the light of God’s coming kingdom? Or do we just use money for ourselves at the expense of those considerations? To trust in God’s beneficent administration of creation in the way we use power, and resources, in the way we use money, is a significant way we participate in God’s economy.

Jesus inaugurates the Gift
In contrast to enslavement to Mammon, Jesus declares the Gift.

To say, as I have, that the text of Jubilee may be read as the social shape of love made concrete is to point to the love of God in Jesus Christ, and to point thus is to indicate the matter of who Jesus was, and therefore is. Therefore, it is to indicate the matter of Jesus’ self-understanding, an understanding inextricable embedded in his understanding of his mission.

Luke chapter 4 records Jesus’ programmatic announcement of his mission, delivered in the synagogue at Nazareth. Quoting Isaiah 61:1-2a Jesus declared,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Clearly, in Isaiah 61:1-2 Second Isaiah is talking of himself and his message of the imminent return of the exiles from Babylon in a new exodus. It is generally agreed that Isaiah 61:1-2 is a text embedded in, and summarising for post-exilic Israel, Israel’s hope for Jubilee. It is widely understood that the good news of liberative return from exile, proclaimed in Isaiah chapter 61, invokes the Jubilee motif.[48] So, keep Jubilee upper most in mind when noting that Jesus applied the text to himself.[49]

Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’[50]

The Gift that was impossible is now possible, indeed actual, in Jesus’ mission.

Jubilee calls us to trust in God’s administration of creation, to participate concretely in God’s economy. In radicalising Jubilee Jesus said,

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and Mammon. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today”.[51]

Jesus knew that the goods of creation really are Gift, a gift actually given freely by God to all. What, for Derrida, was impossible, is actual for the loving creator.

Section 5. In Jesus, Jubilee is indwelt

God with us
In its deep structure, Jubilee has the shape of Immanuel, “God with us”; it is his indwelling that makes the difference.

Jesus inaugurated the Gift; it is for his followers to continue to make the Gift available sustainedly and sustainably in the concrete contexts of social, environmental, and ecological intercourse in which we are embedded.

In Luke 6:1-5ff. we read a report of Jesus saying that the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath – in reading this text we note the echo of Sabbatarian and Jubilee provision in Jesus’ and his disciples gleaning practice as it occasioned the reported incident. The text reports Jesus as declaring that he, the Son of Man, is “Lord of the Sabbath”. In saying that Jesus both underlies that the “Sabbath was made for ‘man’, not ‘man’ for the Sabbath, and that the one who comes on the clouds to the Ancient of Days and shares the throne of the Ancient of Days[52] is the one who – as Yahweh incarnate – leads his followers, in gleaning the good creation, sustainably and sustainedly. So Jubilee, as a celebration of sustainable Sabbath provision, motivates and moves us. We, who would follow Jesus, are moved to sing,

Jesus, be the centre
Be my source, be my light

Be the reason that I live
Jesus be my vision
Be my help
Be my guide Jesus
Jesus, be the centre
Be my hope, be my song

Michael Frye, “Be the Centre”, Vineyard Songs, 1999

Jubilee is a recognition of God’s overarching hospitality. In its deep structure it is about occupation, motivating governance, and right administration; it is about who is at the centre. Jubilee entails the matter of who it is for whom one works, with whom and in whom one participates. In the end, Jubilee is a matter of who is lord and paternal master; Pharaoh/Caesar or YahwehYahweh revealed by Jesus as Father – a father like no other father, a father in whom there is no trace of tyrant when seen in the face of his Son, no king of crushing will, when recognised in the crowning of Yahweh as king of the whole creation, the king of the universe, in that he is so crowned with the pain of our thorns, and enthroned on the instrument of our violence and cruelty. If his resurrection reveals that Jesus is Lord, Caesar isn’t. If Jesus resurrection reveals the Day of the Lord, then we who follow him, we who are members of the community in which Jesus is the centre, are to be agents of his liberation.

Jesus’ Jubilee-shaped communities
In its deep structure Jubilee raises questions about occupation, motivating governance, and right administration; Jubilee is about who is at the centre. Who is at the centre, Pharaoh/Caesar, or Yahweh in Jesus of Nazareth?

Concerning Jesus’ view of Roman oppression of Palestine, N.T. Wright’s instructive thesis is that Jesus of Nazareth saw Roman occupation and oppression to be the continuing judgement of God upon Israel’s unfaithfulness in her failing to be a light to the Gentiles.[53] I suggest that Jesus’ call to faithfulness necessarily entailed a call to concrete, communitarian, Jubilee practice – practice that shunned the money economy as inextricably entangled in debt and idolatry.

This money-shunning is suggested by a contextual reading of Jesus of Nazareth’s reply – recorded in the synoptic Gospels – to the Caesar tax question put to Jesus by the unholy alliance of Herodians and Pharisees. The otherwise unlikely alliance aimed to entrap Jesus with reference to his view of the legitimacy of the Caesar tax. Jesus replied, “Give to Caesar what is his and to God what is God’s”.[54] If Jesus’ Jubilee practice shunned the money economy it follows that a “Get rid of Caesar’s currency!” undercurrent in Jesus’ reply to the Herodians and Pharisees,[55] would have had real counter-cultural force.[56]

It is surely untenable to think that the Matthean report of Jesus saying that he would build his church – his community of called out ones – upon the Petrine confession of Jesus’ foundational centrality[57] is simply a self explanation of the early church and reflects nothing of Jesus’ intentions. It is precisely such an intention to inaugurate counter-economic, system-resistant communities, that immediately becomes a threat to the powers that be. Notwithstanding the huge semiotic significance of Jesus’ healing ministry, as pointing to the powerfully liberating life of the kingdom of God, it is not the healing of some sick people that is seen by the powers that be to be an immediate and major threat. It is resistance to their control of economic power and monopolistic manipulation of resources that marks a man out for elimination. For all the text focus on healing as a sign of the coming of the kingdom, a politico-economically framed reading of the Synoptic gospels suggests that the message proclaimed first by the twelve and then the seventy(two) sent out by Jesus to declare, in his name, the coming kingdom of God, indicates that the content of the mission of those sent out was to declare Jubilee and to organise villages to communally enact it.[58] Villages that refused to do so were to be understood as rejecting God’s call, but those that responded positively we to be given some organisational assistance from the disciples.[59]

The Gift is inalienable and participative

The Gift is not an alienable thing to be exchanged. Rather, it is something participated in by both the giver and receiver.

The Gift is not exhausted in the giving for, like the burning bush that confronted Moses, the Gift is inexhaustible. In being received the Gift is consummated, in being consumed it will not be consumed – in being consumed the Gift transforms. Here we are close to the Eucharistic, and so the Trinitarian, hospitality of the Gift. Here is the ground of concrete, liberative, bodily, resurrection![60]

The Gift is communion. The Gift is communitarian identification.

Ultimately, and from the beginning, the Gift is the Gift of Godself. So, it is apposite to consider the assertion that we exist, that all creation exist, only insofar as all things participate in God – this is certainly so with respect to the trajectory of God’s eschatological arrow, an arrow that passes through, even as it participates in, Melchizedekian bread and wine. The Gift is communion because, foundationally, the Gift is participation in the interpenetrative, perchoretic, life dynamics of the Trinity[61] – on this account of God’s administration, God’s economy, salvation, is consummated in theosis.

The communitarian shape of the Gift is not – as Mauss and Derrida held – the shape of a favour. Rather, the Gift has the shape of sacrifice – inasmuch as sacrifice entails a certain self-giving, the self-giving of sacrifice grounds communion and community.[62] The mindset of the Gift is of the intentional self-emptying sacrifice.[63] The giving of the Gift is the invitation to participate in the sacrifice; that participation entails the taking up of one’s cross and following, in life practice, the cruciform life trajectory of Jesus’ journey. Luke 9:23-25 records that Jesus’ imperative to take up such cruciform following is framed against the opposite path whereby one seeks the riches of the world in exclusion of (Jubilee) service.

The provisions of Jubilee were designed to protect both the less wealthy and the environment from exploitation. Fruitfulness and wealth are given so that those who participate in the kaitiakitanga of wealth and resources may support and nurture all, including those less able and less resourced.

If we see Jubilee’s provisions and Jesus’ radicalised Jubilee imperatives as inviting us to participate in the Gift, then the Gift, as participation, certainly does entail undisguised response that is shaped like obligation. However, in addressing Derrida, Jean-Luc Marion notes,

The gift begins when the potential giver suspects that another gift has already preceded him, to which he owes something, to which he owes himself to respond.[64]

Marion’s insight is the subjective, personal, aspect of what grounds a social, covenantal, conditional. Covenant and the responsibility of love can entail[65] the shape of duty – though it is not the same as a duty, as a calculable, accountable dutiful work. Rather, the responsibility of love is the promise in the Gift.[66]

As participative response, such “obligation” is liberating. Indeed, being covenantally obligated is nothing other than being covenantally embedded. If love is the shape, the structure, of just covenanting, to be covenantally embedded is to be embraced by, embedded in, love. It is to be in love. It is participation in love. Therefore, such “obligation” is joyously a gift of the Gift, wherein we who were alienated find ourselves made whole![67] To turn from the Gift is to leave love’s bed; it is to divorce and become alien. It is to cease to participate.

If something is seen as alienable it seems one can do with it what one likes. It seems one has absolute sovereignty over it to dispose of it as one wills, like Pharaoh. But, if Yahweh alone is god and king, then Yahweh’s faithful provision is inalienable – there is nothing we can take away from Yahweh – then, the Gift remains and our participation, or participative responsibility is underlined. The provisions of Jubilee make sense only when the goods of creation are understood as inalienable Gift and economic activity is understood, not as the practice of alienating, but as the practice of participating – participating in the Gift.

The Jubilee-shaped economy certainly entails giving and receiving, obligation and responsibility. But these things are not alienating; they are participative. To enter into the obligations of God’s covenant is not an alienating economic act. It is a heart response of love towards God and fellow humans in thankfulness. Such Eucharistic love is not an enslaving burden. Rather, it brings liberation.

Jesus’ call to love one another is not an imposition of a finite external obligation. Rather, it is an invitation to participate, infinitely, sustainedly, in love.

Derrida’s mis-take
For Christians, Jesus’ take on the economic as participation in Jubilee is pivotal. Derrida’s mistake is to think of the Gift as alienable and therefore alienating. He rightly sees the Gift as deconstructing the economic, but he continues to view the Gift in terms of an extrinsic, alienable object, and therefore an alienating thing of exchange.[68] Hence, for Derrida, a gift cannot be known lest it be destroyed thereby. In contrast, Jesus openly declares the Gift of God’s sufficient provision.

John McAteer notes that Derrida defines the Gift as pure, disinterested benevolence. In turn this assumes that the giver must take up the position of self-sufficient subject as the one who gives. But that hubris is idolatry. In contrast to such subjective pretence at god-like omnipotence McAteer says,

My “owing” the giver only implies an economic “debt” to be “repaid” if I insist on self-sufficiency.[69]

Participation banishes self-sufficiency, and opens participants to thankfulness. Indeed, participation entails thankfulness.[70] McAteer notes, in a way the that remains me again of our Eucharist,

Genuine thankfulness actually excludes repayment since thanksgiving is the feeling of humility that accompanies the awareness that repayment is impossible whereas repayment is the desire to return the gift and therefore re-establish self-sufficiency.[71]

Derrida’s atheism prevents him from understanding the Gift as the invitation to participate and as the content of participation.[72] We too engage in that atheism when we remain entangled in the web of alienating exchange and depletion that is our economics, when we trust in self-sufficient growth rather than grace, when we are driven by the imperative of profit, rather than encouraged by the recognition of divine provision.

If a gift is a thing obtained by exchange then it becomes a possession and ceases to be a gift. But, the Gift is not part of the economy of exchange and debt. Rather, the Gift is the overarching shape of the inalienable divine hospitality. Authentic economics cannot be driven by depleting growth. Economics must arise out of the sustained and sustaining Gift.

The Gift is always present
The Gift is the context, the time and place, of participation, not a thing possessed. Hence, the Gift remains. If things can be possessed, it makes no sense to heed Jesus’ teaching that if anyone takes away goods, do not ask for them back.[73] That talk makes sense only if the goods we “have” are gifts in which we participate and not things that we own.

Jesus’ mission inaugurated the Gift in the renewed humanity he founded. Jesus calls us to live in Jubilee-evidencing ways that point to the coming of a renewed, fulfilled, creation – a place and time of shalom for all, including ‘adam.

Like the present time, the present is a present, a gift, of the future made present now. The present time is never exchanged for the future. The future comes always to us as present, as Gift. The future is made present and remains present. The Gift is always present and always where we can but participate. In the coming of the future there is no exchange, only the present, only the Gift. The coming of the future now is markedly present in Jesus’ declaration of the presence, in him, of the coming kingdom.

Section 6. At heart, Jubilee

Jubilee, Jesus, joy and virtue
To the virtuous, being covenantally obligated, covenantally embedded, is not a task, a chore, a burdensome labour; rather proper obligation is a joy, a gift of the Gift!

Jesus’ radically liberationist take on the economic went beyond structural considerations and social conditions. Jesus sought to bring about a revolution of the heart that would result in right action, in proper participation.

For Jesus the call to Jubilee wasn’t just a call to the powerful to change things structurally – it was a programme undertaken at the grassroots, seeded in the hearts of the people of the land, a programme that sought to transform their interpersonal and therefore social and environmental relationships. Therefore, Jesus’ take on the economic is to call persons to develop virtue. Jesus’ missional imperatives must be seen not as new laws, but as invitations to live virtuously in light of God’s Gift.[74]

Paul reflects this when, in Romans 12, he links holistic self-sacrifice with the renewing of one’s mind – both one’s understanding and one’s inner motivation – with service to the body of Christ and God’s gifting that enables Jubilee living such as the bringing of mercy and blessing – particularly to the “lowly” – provision of divine hospitality, and peace-making, etc.

The Gift is not exhausted in the giving for, like the burning bush that confronted Moses, the Gift is inexhaustible.

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in my sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus …[75]

Jesus’ Isaianic declaration of the Spirit’s empowering in his ministry, indicates that he understood the empowering of the Holy Spirit as key to Jubilee-shaped living, to undertaking the practice of Jubilee.[76] Whether it is the turn around to the different, counter-cultural values of the exodus or the turn around to the different, counter-cultural values of the return from exile, the key to such repentance is the creation of a new purified heart that turns from wicked ways to the right ways of God.[77]

Living out Jubilee is not so much motivated by an objectivist rational analysis, as it is impelled by the embedding of, and participating in, what Ezekiel calls a new heart of flesh, in contrast to the heart of stone which had come to characterise the old economy, as Jesus seems to have seen it.

An inner mindset of scarcity produces a scarcity of: empathy, forgiveness, compassion, but a mindset of plenty facilitates empathy, forgiveness, compassion, and liberation.[78] The former is the consequence of an idolatrously self-concerned, seemingly impenetrable, heart; the latter arises when one’s heart has been penetrated by God’s Spirit.

The radically Spirit-enabled person says, “I do not seek reasons to be good. I just yearn to participate in the Good.”[79] This inner motivation is the shape of virtue. It does not come from external conditions; it arises from what is within, from what is at the core of the person,[80] as she or he is being transformed, by the Spirit, into the likeness of Christ.[81]

Therefore, virtue is not a work. Virtue is not an effort. Virtue does not require an external motivation, nor an external sanction, to restrain base, selfish, inclinations. To the truly virtuous, moral imperatives are not deontological obligations dictated by universal reason, not even if, in Kantian terms, the moral imperative is thought of as the universalisation of the self’s self-understanding of its own rational nature. And, certainly, virtue is not a matter of simply responding to the external conditions delineated by a law code, by Torah, by karma, or by the expectation of utu. To say, as Jesus does, that one should love one’s neighbour is not so much an imperative imposed by a law, as it is an imperative-shaped by desire arising from heartfelt wisdom.

Hence, the “should”, recognised by the wisdom of virtue, is – to follow McAteer’s example – analogous to saying that everyone should see the Louvre. McAteer notes that to say that one should see the Louvre is right because it is good to see it; that is, because the Louvre displays beautiful art. The Good is an end in itself – it cannot be, nor need be, explained by anything other than itself. The Good is beautiful and attractive. The Good is simply recognised by those who are seeking the Good.[82] There is no obligation to see the Louvre that is backed up by external sanctions for failing to see it. Experiencing beauty is a joy and entails its own explanation. McAteer notes that experiencing beauty “is its own reward, and missing the chance to experience it is its own punishment”.[83] Similarly, to respond authentically to the good of Jubilee virtue is not a matter of responding to the pressure of sanctions and externalised obligations. Rather, it is a matter of recognising and participating in the Good, which necessarily entails the good of all, indeed all creation – the Good, as good, as a universal, is radically inclusive, not selective.

It follows that the economy of God is the economy, the wise administration, of virtue. Participation in virtuous administration is not a work; it is a joy. To the virtuous, being covenantally obligated, covenantally embedded, is not a task, a chore, a burdensome labour; rather proper obligation is a joy, a gift of the Gift! So, you’re free to go to love and serve the Lord, free to declare Jubilee if we would only take a rest and let God speak.

Go, shout it out, rise up
Oh, oh ….
Restart and re-boot yourself
You’re free to go
Oh, oh
Shout for joy if you get the chance
Password, you, enter here, right now
Oh, oh
You know your name so punch it in
Hear me, cease to speak that I may speak
Shush now
Oh, oh
Then don’t move or say a thing[84]

Section 7. Sustainability and sustenance

The sustainability of the Gift

The Gift of God is absolute and unconditional. It is not depleted by exchange. It is sustained by the fullness of God. Our hope of sustainable economics cannot be grounded in other than the non-alienable provision of God.

The provision of God is ultimately the provision of Godself and, in Godself for Godself – and so for us – God is concrete love. Hence, the grounding and sustaining of all being underlies Jesus’ call to love one another as we are being divinely, steadfastly, faithfully loved. To know such awe-full love is the beginning of wisdom. Therefore, Jesus’ call to love one another is an imperative arising from the wisdom of love; indeed, it arises out of the realisation – the bringing to manifestation of the Real – of what it is to be loved, what it is to love, and, therefore, of what sustains. “Only love remains”;[85] only love enables the self-giving, the sacrifice that makes participation sustainable.

We who follow Jesus would be fed by him for, and on, and to sustain, the journey. Jesus is the non-alienable provision of God, the fullness of God who is infinite.

Total work
It is hard not to make everything into work; but then – alienated from God – our work becomes hard work. In contrast to the freedom of God’s provision, our work is often hard labour. The energy of youth fades; we wear out like old, moth-eaten cloth.

Certainly, both vaunting modernist confidence in human capacity and seemingly less arrogant postmodernist constructivism make the sum of human-being, of being human, our work. We trust in our work. We are saved from stuff by our work; our ecological crisis will be solved by our work, our technologies. Yeah right!

We tend to think that we have nothing else but our effort. So we make things by our own efforts, or so we think. We are homo faber. We admire “self-made” men. A self-made man admires himself as a self-made man, the work of his own hands, even as he holds the video camera – made by slave labour in South East Asia – to his self-satisfied countenance.[86]

Now he worships at an altar of a stagnant pool
And when he sees his reflection, he’s fulfilled.
Oh, man is opposed to fair play;
He wants it all and he wants it his way.
Now, there’s a woman on my block;
She just sit there as the night grows still.
She say who gonna take away his license to kill?[87]

As modern individuals who, in our bound finitude, lack real reference to God, we have only ourselves as reference. Such narcissism ultimately excludes the whole world; creation is ignored and covenant is not so much rejected as it is nullified by blindness of a vision wherein the self takes up everything. In the absence of a relationship with God and creation, we fabricate our ersatz worlds, even as we fabricate ourselves – or so it seems in both our ancient and modern practical atheisms. Such practically God-less men can easily turn a blind eye to the plight of creation despoiled, to paradise lost. In the absence of God who witnesses, rape not only takes place it becomes the only, and therefore the necessary, mode of engagement since, in the absence of right relationship, other stuff remains just stuff to be exploited.

Even our epistemic engagement – from ancient idol making to more subtle contemporary constructivist idolatries – is held to be wholly our own work. Locked into his post-Kantian solipsistic subjectivity, wherein we must construct ourselves, Derrida made believing a work of the willing subject, a work rather than a matter of trust.[88] Such impoverished epistemology neither nourishes nor sustains.

McAteer puts the sort of things that follow from such constructivist voluntarism as follows.

… we live in … a culture of “total work”, a culture in which everything is located in terms of a totalizing economics in which anything valuable must be practical and useful and legitimated as “social service, as contribution to the common utility”. All value is thereby “drawn into the social system and its distribution of labor”. This culture of “total work” has made us incapable of receiving gifts. We no longer know how to “be still and know”. We no longer know how to receive God’s grace, the good gift of being. We think of our social action as a “duty” we have to God in return for his salvation. But this transforms our salvation into a contract – a salvation by works. Instead we need to accept salvation as a free gift. This entails seeing our social work as a natural response of a regenerate being – our own most natural and happiest way of being.[89]

One year in 7 the land was to have a year of rest and lie fallow. No planting and organised reaping was to be done. Whatever grew without cultivation was to be the Israelites food. As a Sabbath rest, the people were to trust in God’s provision during the year and for the subsequent year of replanting. This imperative echoes the weekly Sabbath rest instituted in the exodus, the paradigm narrative of Israel’s liberation from social, economic and “spiritual” enslavement.

In proclaiming the good news of the coming kingdom of God, Jesus offered the active rest of Jubilee life as our own most natural and therefore happiest way of being. Therein is the concrete shape of salvation. But we make God’s free gift of salvation again into our work.[90]

Section 8. Who owns what?

Who owns what? Infinite God: finite resources

Psalm 24 begins by noting that, “The whole earth and everything in it is the Lord’s”.

The Year of Jubilee reset the social, environmental, and economic conditions. Property, particularly land, was to return to its original God-designated familial use. Therefore, the means of production was understood not as an alienable commodity, but as on lease, ultimately from God – the land was to be understood as an inalienable public asset. With respect to the means of production exclusivist (“private”) property is an idolatry that gets in the way of God’s socially-expressed character and intentions.

If today we tacitly believe we are what we owe, we also believe we are what we own. In our post-Kantian practical atheism, the self is the owner of things, the possessor of power – we construct ourselves via acquisitiveness and our practices of consumption.

There is a widespread human tendency to see ourselves as “man the owner”, a view which necessarily becomes “the owner of the man”. This is so not only in the sense of the self’s possession of the self, but in the self’s possession of others. The result is slavery to the self and the enslavement of others.

In contrast, a key aspect of Jesus’ teaching is that we are not ultimately owners, we do not own ourselves and we do not construct ourselves by owning, and we do not make ourselves by seeking to enslave. Rather, we are made by God to be God’s servants and have our identity in our proper and primary focus of seeking God’s ends. Note Jesus’ imperative “… seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness …”.[91]

Many of Jesus’ missional imperatives seek to break the widespread human tendency to see ourselves in terms of what, and who, we own. Jesus offers a transformed identity, a new self, as he calls people out to leave Satan behind – Jesus calls us to follow him and participate in the coming kingdom of God.[92] Jesus’ call – entailing that we be good servants of God’s Gift – echoes the good stewardship of Jubilee.

God’s infinity, God’s inexhaustibility in Godself, does not warrant a careless ungrounded philosophy of abundance. God’s creation is finite it has its proper bounds. We are called to be good stewards, not just within those bounds, but of those boundary conditions themselves as we seek to use sustainably and conserve wisely. Although God may be infinitely capacious, creation is finite and we are to be wise stewards of what is entrusted into our hands.

Because creation is finite, the regenerative capacities of creation are not infinite. So, growth that enables human flourishing is properly growth within the bounds of creation’s capacities. We may not coerce creation by the irresponsible application of our technologies, any more than we may coerce our fellows. Therefore, we may not use the dynamics of our economies to coerce abnormal production from either the environment or our fellow humans.

The covenantal obligation to trust in God’s providence makes good ecological sense. The Sabbath year rest aimed at enabling people and the environment to participate overtly in God’s blessing. To give creation no rest is to enslave it in our fear of famine. To ceaselessly labour is to ensure that famine will arise out of depletion.

If we would be free from slavery we must image God, we must be liberators, even as God is liberator. Thereby we participate in the conservation of God’s providence and the Gift remains.

Section 9. Our challenge is to seek, and live out of, God’s alternative security

Disinvestment in the world-system

If we are to live at all, it can only be by living sustainably. If we are to live sustainably, the rich must divest themselves and give the wealth, with which they cloak themselves, to the poor. There must be disinvestment from extractive, exploitative, idolatry of economic growth. We must invest in structures that are sustainable; we must invest in an ecology that sustains.
Jesus said,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust* consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust* consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” [93]

For Jesus, and the early Christian communities following his example,[94] detachment was an expression of faith, and expression of trust. For Jesus, and the early Christian communities detachment from, and disinvestment out of, the corrupted and corrupting, exclusive and excluding, extractive and enslaving, wealth of the human world was an expression of eschatological faith;[95] this was motivated by a radical trust in God coming, all-including benevolence. Chris Marshall says, “We are called to disinvest in the world-system – its values, priorities, allegiances, patterns – and reinvest ourselves in the agenda of God’s kingdom.”[96]

With what shall I come before the LORD
and bow down before the exalted God?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.[97]


Consumerism in the so-called “developed” world is out of control. Contemporary society is alarmingly sick as a result of the pursuit of ever-increasing affluence. Growth economics is the supposedly objective pole of our culturally-feed subjective desire for more. We are constantly conditioned by our media to expect more and more, but we do not arrive at the point where we are happy. Members of faith communities who reflect the communitarian character of human existence and whose life together evidence Christian eschatological hope are able to share resources and have different, alternative, expectations. In light of the gospel, followers of Jesus should have the ideological capacity to consolidate an alternative ground – God’s providence in Christ – of security.[98] The intentional recognition and practice of that alternative security will enable believers and others to stand against what Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute calls “affluensa”. Hamilton writes,

…[there is] a vast marketing industry that exploits our insecurities and vanities to make us feel discontented. Apart from trying to persuade us to consume particular goods, the larger function of the industry is to persuade us that a happy life can be had through accumulating money and consuming more. Our culture has been colonised by the ideology and values of marketing.[99]

We engage in atheism when we remain entangled in the web of alienating exchange and depletion that is our economics, when we trust in growth rather than grace, when we are driven by the imperative of profit, or when we seek to protect our own supposed welfare disregarding others – when, thereby, we refuse to recognise the adequacy of divine provision.

So, how do we see it?
Jesus calls us to live together in Jubilee-evidencing ways that point to the coming of a renewed, fulfilled, creation. Jesus’ followers are to respond to God’s saving and liberating provision by continuing Jesus’ mission. Jesus’ followers are to understand that mission as a life and death matter entailing feeding and refreshing the hungry and thirsty, taking in the stranger, clothing the naked and inadequately clothed, caring for the sick, visiting the imprisoned, etc.[100]

Nor can this care be undertaken apart from care for creation as a whole – to fail to recognise the limitations of creation and to ignore our responsibility to nurture God’s gifting, is to disregard the only means we have of caring for our fellows.

Jesus’ community – his ekklesia – is called out from false myths and speculations to take a new identity, a new “genealogy”, in the household – ho oikos – of God. We must grasp hold of our identity concretely. As such, the church is called to evidence God’s parental benevolence. The church is called to do this in a multiplicity of interconnected ways. Our challenge is to intuit the economy of God in our contexts and understand those contexts as opportunities for Jesus’ Jubilee-shaped mission.

Such mission turns upon how we see the economic, where it is placed in our web of belief, for it is out of that placement that we think and operate. Is the economic really Adam Smith’s mechanistic market, a closed system modelled on the mindless thermodynamics of the Boltzmann distribution; or is the economic an opportunity to recognise and participate in the Gift, for the sake of love?

What if we were to unstintingly practice an unreserved and unconditional giving of gifts out of love instead of occasionally and then only out of obligation? What if we were to “seek first the kingdom of God”?

If we begin on mindless mechanistic assumptions about the economic, we will generate a view of wealth that is alienating, consumerist, and unable to recognise the Gift. This is essentially atheistic. We can never integrate such a view with faith in God. But if the good creation is Gift and wealth is a privileged opportunity to participate in God’s mission, our exercise of good stewardship becomes vital expression of faith in God who provides.

Using “our” resources

Local congregations should be the concrete context for Jubilee-shaped living. Jubilee mission cannot be practised alone; Jubilee is a community thing embedded in the ecology of creation. In community we have the resources and support that in isolation we lack.

Such resource sharing, such resource liberating, implies an intended egalitarianism that shakes our seeming comfort inasmuch as we are embedded in the system, inasmuch as we count and care for our money while neglecting our fellows, inasmuch as we seek to be big men in a world where greatness is bought at the expense of those who are seen only as insignificant, inasmuch as we invest in our health insurance rather than the kingdom of heaven, inasmuch as we continue to despoil creation for the sake of our own immediate comfort while disregarding the hugely negative impact our selfishness is having ultimately on all.

In community we have the resources and support that in isolation we lack – note again the slums of Mumbai – but recognising that concretely will shake us up.

Local congregations are expressions of the body of Christ. Together congregations have significant kaitiakitanga. How may those entrusted resources, that wealth, be used to further the flourishing of creation? To answer by taking significant positive action is to participate in the economy of God – it is to recognise, receive, and make available the Gift.

In the journey towards that recognition we might respond to God in the words of Walter Brueggemann.

You are the God who is simple, direct, clear with us and for us.
You have committed yourself to us.
You have said yes to us in creation,
Yes to us in our birth,
Yes to us in our baptism,
Yes to us in our awakening this day.
But we are of another kind,
More accustomed to “perhaps, maybe, we’ll see,”
Left in wonderment and ambiguity.
We live our lives not back to your yes,
But out of our endless “perhaps.”
So we pray for your mercy this day that we may live yes back to you,
Yes with our time,
Yes with our money,
Yes with our sexuality,
Yes with our strength and with our weakness,
Yes to our neighbor,
Yes and no longer “perhaps.”
In the name of your enfleshed yes to us,
Even Jesus who is our yes into your Future. Amen.


Appendix 1: Jesus’ Jubilee communities, money, and taxes
Appendix 2: God and the Debt: a framing consideration in the theodicy of the cross


1Cf. Willard O. Quine with J. S. Ullian, The Web of Belief, New York: Random House, 1970. See too, Nancey Murphy, Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics, Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997.

2Psalm 24:1-2.

3Cf. David Lewis Schaefer, “Economic Scarcity and Political Philosophy: Ancient and Modern Views,” International Political Science Review, vol. 4, no. 3 (1983), pp. 279-94.

4For example, Pensées, 347-348 frames a comment such as,

For when blessings are promised in abundance, what was to prevent them from understanding the true blessings, but their covetousness, which limited the meaning to worldly goods? But those whose only good was in God referred them to God alone. For there are two principles, which divide the wills of men, covetousness and charity. Not that covetousness cannot exist along with faith in God, nor charity with worldly riches; but covetousness uses God and enjoys the world, and charity is the opposite. Pensées, 571.

5I am grateful to my friend, Dave Barnes, for alerting me – in the course of my writing of this paper – to the discourse concerning the philosophy of abundance, in distinction to thought and practice that assumes scarcity to be fundamental. Barnes rightly noted that the discourse, “ … goes beyond material things per se. A philosophy of plenty contrasts sharply, in terms of its results for wellness, with a mindset of fundamental scarcity. A mindset of scarcity results in a scarcity of: empathy, forgiveness, compassion. Positively, a mindset of plenty facilitates empathy, forgiveness, compassion, and liberation.”

I note that, in light of Barnes’ comments, we may state the matter as a question: Which conception – belief that there is abundance, or belief that there is scarcity – is integrated at the centre of one’s web of belief? See further the point at endnote 1. above.

6Another socio-politico discourse in which this paper participates is the discussion among philosophers, moral, political, and economic, theorists, etc. concerning the fundamentals of human motivation and the foundational nature/character of human being. On the one hand there are egoists, such as Thomas Hobbes – who think of humans as a mob of irreducibly self-centred/selfish individuals who, without social control, are engaged in a “war of all against all”. On the other hand, there are benevolentists, such as Francis Hutchenson – who hold that humans are fundamentally communitarian and that we derive our humanity from our capacity for, and actualisation of, benevolence towards others. In antiquity the latter view seems to have been prevalent, whereas, in modern times, egoism is having much of the running.

Richard Dawkins is a curiosity; he holds that, by nature, we are thoroughly, indeed genetically, selfish so we must then educate ourselves, by nurture, to be benevolent. The thing is, Dawkins blames “the God idea” – on his account a dangerous matter of misplaced social nurture – for much human evil, yet he also finds no salvation for humans from humans as humans in their fundamentally selfish genetics! Further, one must ask the queastion: What/who grounds Dawkin’s moral judgements?

Space does not permit a discussion of the egoist/benevolentists discourse. However, the reader is referred to John D. Bishop, “Moral Motivation and the Development of Francis Hutcheson’s Philosophy,” Journal of the History of Ideas – Volume 57, Number 2, April 1996, 277-295.

7Cf. endnote 5. above.

8Cf. John Milbank’s discussion of Derrida’s issue in, “Can a Gift Be Given: Prolegomena to a Future Trinitarian Metaphysic,” Rethinking Metaphysics, L. Gregory Jones and Stephen E. Fowl (eds), Cambridge: Blackwell, 1995, 119-61. See also, John McAteer, “The Gifts of God for the People of God: Communion as Derrida’s Impossible Gift” in Gift and Economy: Ethics, Hospitality, and the Market, ed. Eric Severson, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. See further, this chapter posted as a paper at In addition to obvious material from the Gospels, much of my paper here has been inspired by Milbank’s “Can a Gift Be Given” and, although Jubilee is not mentioned in McAteer’s chapter I have drawn significantly, by extension, from that work where I have discovered support for my thesis concerning the Gift as I think it may be related to Jubilee.

9Cf. Jacques Derrida, The Gift of Death, trans. Wills, University of Chicago Press, 1995 (1991); and Given Time: i. Counterfeit Money, trans. Kamuf, University of Chicago Press, 1992; also “Hostipitality” in Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities, Vol. 5, Number 3, Dec 2000.

10Cf. Marcel Mauss, The Gift: The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies, trans. W. D. Halls, London: Routledge, 1990.

11Cf. Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus in John 3.

12Leaving Brian Tamaki and the prosperity gospel aside, a key Deuteronomistic message of the Tanahk is that legitimate wealth is an expression of God’s blessing. However, it does not follow that just because there is wealth that God’s blessing is operative in that wealth. Wealth that is ill-gotten is an idolatry and is under God’s curse. Wealth that is gotten at the expense of others, the poor, indeed at the expense of creation as a whole, wealth gained through subjugation and exploitation, is Mammon. This is why Jesus, in radicalising the Deuteronomistic message, says, “Blessed are you, the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God …” (Luke 6:20-26). Righteous poverty is a sign that elsewhere there are unrighteous riches. The Matthean version – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 5:3-12) – is not necessarily a later watering down of the supposedly more original logion in Luke. Rather, Matthew’s version goes to the issue of the heart: the poor – a fortiori the materially poor – know inwardly their poverty and their dependency. The rich become arrogantly self-sufficient. Matthew, as much as Luke, reflects Jesus’ understanding of wealth and poverty, while Matthew brings out Jesus’ reason for expressing the shocking thought that poverty can facilitate a blessing, since the poverty of the poor and its causes clears way for the realisation that wealth is not of one’s own self-sufficient making. This understanding of the blessing of the poor has its logic grounded only in the adequate-for-all creational provision of God and the understanding that wealth is the gift of God, on an inalienable possession.

13Cf. Deuteronomy 28.

14Cf. Stephen C Barton, “Money Matters: Economic Relations and the Transformation of Value in Early Christianity”, in Engaging Economics: New Testament Scenarios and Early Christian Reception, eds. Bruce W. Longenecker and Kelly D. Liebengood, Eerdmans, 2009, 42-45.

15Cf. Luke 12:34.

16Matthew 22:35-40.

17Mark 12:41-44.

18John 3:16-17 (My own paraphrase from the Greek text.)

19McAteer, “Gifts”, 2011.

20Stephen C Barton, “Money Matters”, 2009, 40.

21See also Deuteronomy 15:1-18, and also Exodus.21:2; 23:10-12.

22For a helpful discussion of the centrality of property and possession to the Torah see Barton, “Money Matters”, 2009, 39-41.

23Margaret Barker, “The Time is Fulfilled, Jesus and Jubilee”, Scottish Journal of Theology, 53.1, 2000, 22-32. The article is also found at

24Cf. Margaret Barker, “The Time is Fulfilled, Jesus and Jubilee”, 2000.

25See, for example, Isaiah 58. The prophets frequently denounced the oppression of the poor by the rich, oppression being directly counter to the biblical sensibilities that motivated the conception of Jubilee; see, for example: Isaiah 5:5; 10:1-4; 32:6-7; Ezekiel 18:12-13; Jeremiah 5:26-29; Amos 8:4-6; Micah 2:1-2; 3:1-4; Habakkuk 2:6.

Note further, many scholars are sceptical that the Jubilee of Leviticus 25 was ever practised in Israel. There is a distinct absence of biblical evidence, therefore it is difficult to tell whether or not Jubilee was practised, or whether or not it was simply an ideal not fully carried out, (cf. Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), 176-177). However, scholars, such as John Howard Yoder and Sharon Ringe contend that the possible non-practice of Jubilee does not, of course, count against it being a major conception that informed both the social critique of the prophets and the concrete shape of Jesus’ proclamation of the inauguration of the kingdom of God.

Nehemiah 10:31 evidences concern for the practice of the Sabbath year. Further, there is evidence that, just before the time of Jesus, the practice of the seventh year of release had indeed become a matter of practical public concern thereby, implying the issue of the related practice of Jubilee. A record – in the treatise Gittin of the Mishnas dating from 1st century BCE – is evidence of the legal avoidance of Jubilee imperatives, doubtless devised by 1st century BCE lawyers! The regulation is referred to by the term “prozbul” which is probably derived from the Greek, pros boulei – an action formalised before a council, or court. The idea was that deeds of debt could be lodged with courts as the seventh year of release approached, thus enabling the court to act for the creditor as a debt collection agent to recover the debt that the Sabbatical year would have cancelled. Alternatively, the court could keep the deed safe and after the year of release the deed would then become active again in the hands of the creditor. The argument was that the Jubilee regulations applied to persons, not to institutions such as courts. The problem the prozbul sought to solve was that as the year of release approached credit was squeezed since increasingly few were prepared to lend for any significant term if the debt were about to be written off. Although the prozbul made possible the continuation of credit and debt, it made a complete monkey of the idea of the year of release because, under the prozbul, the relationship of debtor/creditor continued uninterrupted.

The prozbul, is attributed rabbi Hillel the Elder (c.110BCE-10CE). Cf. [25 September 2008].

The existence of the prozbul indicates that probably there had been some real attempt to enact Jubilee in the time immediately prior to Jesus (cf. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Agnus Noster (2nd edition, MI: Grand Rapids, 1994), 64-66. Sharon H. Ringe, Jesus, Liberation and the Biblical Jubilee: Images for Ethics and Christology, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 21.

Maybe, Jubilee remained merely a thought or a proposal, but the related idea of Sabbatical year of release – whatever the details – was a serious enough matter to have raised the problems which the prozbul sought to solve. Certainly, we may surmise that Jesus implacably opposed the prozbul and directed much of his stinging critique of the Pharisees (cf. for example Mark 7:1-13ff.) on account of it (cf. Yoder, 65).

26Richard Wilkinson and K. Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Allen Lane, 2009.

27Significant resent research has been carried out on cortisol – cortisol is a major stress hormone – showing that chronic stress affects the body’s neural and immune systems. When sustainedly stressed we are more likely to become anxious and depressed and are more likely to develop major physical ailments including heart disease, obesity, cancer, drug addiction, liability to infection, premature ageing, etc

28Cf. John 10:9.

29Cf. Stephen C Barton, “Money Matters”, 2009, 41.

30U2, “Unknown Caller”, No Line on The Horizon, 2009, track 4.

31If it is argued that selfless love is impossible, as Derrida does, because love always entails the desire of the self to be the lover of the other, then we should note that while eros entails the desire that I give the gift, agape – selfless self-giving – entails the desire only that a gift be given. See Robert Merrihew Adams, Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999, 141. The agapeistic imperative to give arises from the desire that a gift be given, not from an exclusivistic desire to be the giver. Although the desire that a gift be given – while not necessarily entailing that this desire obligates the desirer to be the giver – does entail that the desirer is open to the possibility that she or he may be the giver. Hence, it is participative engagement that motivates agapeistic giving, whereas erotic desire entails, and is motivated by, a degree of self-interest that deconstructs the Gift. Further, it is in participation that the erotic may be redeemed, as Augustine may be taken as indicating, e.g. De Trinitate XIV, 8. See Milbank, “Can a Gift be Given?”, 1995.

32In itself, duty is an abstract thing and its imperatives are external. But the responsibility noted here is love, and love entails, at its core, the wish for the beloved’s wellness. Love’s desire for the wellness of the other recognises that if the other is to be well the well-wisher must (at least be prepared to) participate in providing the conditions that bring about and maintain the desired wellness. Love’s wish is strongly personal, rather than abstract. The wish is free – but, in wishing, the personal imperative is revealed.

331 Timothy 1:4 Also, it is a useful hermeneutic exercise is to read the whole of Paul’s first epistle to Timothy socio-economically, in light of the ethos of Jewish and Greco-Roman concerns for the right administration of households – oikonomia – framed by the general shape of the year of Jubilee. Notably, Paul’s comments to Timothy in chapter 6 derive from Jubilee sensibilities.

34The payment of debt is but one of several historical models of the atonement (cf. John Stott, The Cross of Christ, IVP, UK and USA, 1986). All models are of help. All have some biblical warrant. Each is incomplete; together all are incomplete. But, for our discussion, the framing of Jubilee and release as a major context of Jesus’ self-understanding and mission suggests that the atonement as debt payment that enacts debt cancellation is significant. Earlier, in the body of this paper, it was noted that it seems all human gift-giving comes with an obligation, with a price. In light of the model of the atonement as cancelling debt and bringing liberation, we may intuit that the Gift does indeed come at an awful awe-full price – the price of the cross. But the payment of that price – within the participative, perichoretic, life of the Trinity, by the cross of Christ – makes the Gift the Gift. Thereby, within the infinite fullness of the eternal divine life, the Gift is made utterly free as the Gift. For a discussion of the matter of the debt and divine responsibility – as a concern at the root of theodicy – see Appendix 2 to this paper titled “God and the Debt: a framing consideration in the theodicy of the cross”.

35Dylan, Infidels, 1983.

36Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ As the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, SCM Press, London, 1973

37Matthew 6:10-12.

38Luke 6:29-36.

39The fear of famine is a failure to trust; it arises out of self-centred, self-concerned, mindset of scarcity – see endnote 5 above.

40“Mammon” is a Semitic loan word to the Greek of the New Testament. It is thought that the word gains its impact from suggesting the name of an idol (cf. Stephen C Barton, “Money Matters”, 2009, 44).

In the Torah, indeed in the Tanahk as a whole, the promise – and its conditional actualisation – of the appropriate wealth of the covenant people is a significant indication of the covenantal blessing of God. But appropriate wealth is conservative, and conserving; it is wealth for all and includes the wellness of creation as the context of God’s provision. Creation, as the context of God’s provision, is the environment in which, and from which, wealth is grown and sustained. Barton notes that Jesus’ aphorism that no one can “serve both God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13) evidences “a fundamental continuity between Torah and Jesus … on wealth as a symbol of the moral life – on wealth as a marker of what it means to be the people whom God has called from slavery to freedom and from death to life.” Barton, “Money Matters”, 2009, 41.

41The blessedness of the poor being so, we must step back and consider a wider and more overarching frame. Ultimately, poverty, overall, is the just judgment of God against sin, as Genesis 3:17-19 indicates. That lustful men have appropriated the Gift and are not releasing it as a blessing to all is sin that impacts upon all. Sin is a falling short, a failure in relationships and the purpose of human relationship. But, Christians hold that in the cross of Christ there is liberation, restorative putting right, and life-giving transformation, for all. Therefore, Jubilee-shaped release from poverty is rooted in the justice, the putting right, of the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ is the ground of all of God’s justice and liberation.

42Cf. Leviticus 25.

43Cf. 1 Timothy 6:10

44Pastor Mike Enright in a sermon titled, “Paul Writes to Leaders”, delivered at Karori Baptist Church, Wellington, on Sunday 24 July, 20

45The Marxist understanding that where there is unequal wealth that wealth is always gained at the expense of the poor – via exploitation, both of people and the environment – is an understanding of which we must not lose sight. Generally, that insight shaped the prophetic critique of Israel’s idolatrous injustice as it is documented in the biblical narrative. However, the Jubilee points towards personal activity, not simply structural inequality. For all its encoding in general social imperatives, the Jubilee counter to poverty and injustice points in the direction of personal activity – rather than impersonally articulated collectivist compulsion – Jubilee points towards personal activity that can, under God, generate righteous wealth; such wealth necessarily entails that the wealthy undertake personally the redistribution of wealth for egalitarian ends, for the sake and joy of administrating God’s providential blessing.

46Philosopher, Peter Singer, reports that in controlled psychological experiments, people exposed to images of money significantly reduced their altruistic behaviour when compared to others not exposed to images of money. Cf., “Maybe Marx was right in counting the hidden cost of money”, The Dominion Post, Saturday 27 September, 2008, B5.

47Consider the Melanesian big man of some Kwaio (the indigenous people of Malaita) family group; he spends much time each day visiting and tending his tambu (etymologically related to the Polynesian word tapu) in a house especially made for his tambu’s secure installation and maintenance. Only the big man may enter his tambu house. When he does so he is formally attired. He wears appropriate ritual dress and is adorned with the trappings which signal that he is a big man. So clothed for the business, he brings votive offerings of flowers to his tambu. He places the offerings before the tambu as tokens of his devotion. He bows before his tambu. He brings water to bath his tambu; thereby he keeps it clean, shiny, tidy, and powerful. In undertaking these “spiritual” acts of ritual devotion he chants esoteric incantations of power so as to bind himself to his tambu and it to him. His tambu objectify, for him and to others, his mana, his sacred power that he is able to exercise in society. His tambu make him and keep him a big man, a man with much mana. We might well wish to call this practice idolatry. But we should be aware that the big man’s tambu is his shell money with which he buys, and for which he sells, and through which he maintains his power (see Roger M. Keesing, Kwaio Religion. Columbia University Press, 1982). So, consider the Wellington businessman; he spends much time visiting his banking site, a “place” encoded on a secure server constructed especially to facilitate the secure maintenance of his money. Only the businessman may enter the site. His access is by esoteric code, a name known only to him – a secret name he must not lose lest he lose everything. This visiting is key to his business. In such business situations, it is proper that he is seen formally attired wearing a suit and that strange ritual object, the neck tie. Given the amount of time he spends considering the dynamics of his cash flow, it is clear that he is devoted to his money and its tidy maintenance. He applies economic formulae, and other esoteric methods of divining, to his cash and to the market as a whole. All this is a big focus of his day. He is bound to his money and his money to him. His money objectifies, for him and to others, the power he is able to exercise in society. We might well call all this devotional practice idolatry.

48See particularly verse 11. That Isaiah chapter 61 strongly invokes the Jubilee motif. Isaiah 61 and indeed Leviticus 25 reflect a less than fully inclusive take on the benefits of Jubilee with respect to non-Israelites, but that does not count against the humanising and liberative trajectory of Jubilee motif which Jesus radicalises.

49Margaret Barker’s original insights into Jesus of Nazareth’s self understanding are instructive. Barker reads Jesus’ mission, as framed by a take on Israelite temple and priesthood, in terms of a deep underlying structure of a Melchizedekian priesthood. For our purposes it is of note that Barker draws together Jesus’ identity as bringer of Jubilee and Melchizedekian high priest.

Of course, the Melchizedekian priesthood is an integrating motif running through the Letter to the Hebrews. In times past it has been standard to see the Christology of the letter to Hebrews as simply a product of the self-understanding of a community of 1st century Jewish followers of Jesus. But by recognising Jesus to be a person in and of his particular historical context, it may be contended that the Christology of the letter reflects themes and motifs that are of a piece with Jesus’ own self-understanding; his knowledge of what he was doing. Indeed, Barker holds that Jesus was not just interpreted by some of the earliest streams of the church to be high priest, liberator, and healer; rather Jesus saw himself precisely in those terms and as acting in ways deliberately consistent with that view of himself. The Qumran Melchizedek text (11QMelch) is perhaps a good indication that in Jesus’ time the Qumran sectarians saw themselves as a community of priests looking for the return of Melchizedek, the great high priest who would deal with/to the “wicked priest” at Jerusalem. Against that self understanding we should ponder the extent to which Jesus saw himself and his community as having a similar identity and mission; Jesus’ temple action takes on further politico-economic significance if it is more closely linked with the Temple’s cultic and cosmic significance. We note, with Barker, that on the Day of Atonement it was the high priest’s function to represent the people to Yahweh in the Holy of Holies, and from that place emerge both as Adam cleansed and Yahweh come to his people. And we note, with Barker, that since the year of Jubilee begins on the Day of Atonement, Jubilee and atonement, high priesthood and re-creation/liberation/shalom are inextricably bound together in the blood of the sacrifice – indeed I add, in the Gift.

Barker is particularly instructive in positing an expectation of Jubilee in Jesus’ time according to the Danielic future-prophetic timetable. Barker notes, “If Jesus was born in 7/6 BCE and was baptised when he was about thirty years old (Luke 3.23), he began his ministry during the crucial first ‘week’ of the tenth Jubilee.” That is to say, it was at that particular time that Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and announced his Jubilee-shaped mission – see, Margaret Barker, “The Time is Fulfilled, Jesus and Jubilee”, 2000.

50Luke 4:20-21.

51Matthew 6:24-34.

52Cf. Daniel 7:13-14ff.

53Cf. N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Christian Origins and the Question of God; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996.

54It is widely noted that in replying “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, Jesus is invoking Psalm 24 which says that all the earth and all in it belongs to Yahweh; thus, strongly implying that nothing belongs to Caesar of right. What Caesar enjoys for the moment, at the expense of others, will not endure always. See my extended discussion of both the Caesar tax and the Jewish/Herodian temple tax in, “Show Me the Money! Jesus and the temple,” Parts 1 & 2, Stimulus, the New Zealand journal of Christian thought and practice, Vol, 17, No.3, 37-48, and Vol, 17, No.4, 38-51.

55N. T. Wright cites 1 Maccabees 2:66-68. Although Mattathias’ “Pay back to the Gentiles …” was not a reference to money, Wright finds an echo of Mattathias’ revolutionary sentiment in Jesus’ reply to his interrogators. In light of the idolatry of the Caesar coin with which the tax was to be paid, Wright is

…sure that some of Jesus’ hearers would have picked up that revolutionary hint. Because he was standing there looking at a coin, his surface meaning was, of course, that the tax had to be paid; but underneath was the strong hint that Caesar’s regime was a blasphemous nonsense and that one day God would overthrow it.

N.T. Wright “God and Caesar Then and Now”. [30 September 2008] Cf. Wright (1996), 502-507.

56Jesus’ reply was counter the culture of money. In Jesus’ context, both the Caesar tax itself and more broadly the Roman controlled Jewish/Herodian bureaucracy served the oppressive, despoiling, extractive partnership between the Jewish powers that be and the power of Rome. Again, see the discussion in, “Show Me the Money!,” Parts 1 & 2, Stimulus, Vol, 17, No.4 37-548, and Vol, 17, No.4 38-51.

57Cf. Matthew 16:18ff.

58Cf. Matthew 10:5-20; Mark 6:6b-13; Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-23.

59For further discussion of Jesus’ intent to set up Jubilee-shaped communities, see Appendix 1. to this paper titled, “Jesus’ Jubilee communities, money, and taxes”.

60Here is the Gift remembered; as we remember the Gift, the Gift re-members us. As we feed upon the Gift, the Gift turns from his table, falls upon us, and consumes us such that we participate in him. Here is the body – the ground of liberative resurrection to which Jubilee points.

61See McAteer’s mostly concurring comments about Milbank’s emphasis on the Trinitarian shape of the Gift, in McAteer’s, “Gifts”, 201

62It is not adequate for Milbank to argue that agape, and not restoring sacrifice, grounds community. Milbank says that this is because the primal and overarching eternal state that grounds all is that of Paradise and not fall, integration not rupture. But to me it seems that Milbank remains all too western in prioritising the unity of the Godhead over the divine diversity of persons. Here we must make the Barthian/Moltmannian point that the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity. In this the proper emphasis is on Moltmann’s social understanding of the Godhead, rather than Barth’s neo-modalism. The unconditional, freely-chosen, perichoretic constitution of the Godhead – the dynamic constitutive relations among the divine persons – arises out of the eternally chosen intention of God to be the god who, in God the Son, dies self-sacrificially on the cross. God the Son is eternally the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world (cf. Revelation 13:8, also 1 Peter 1:17-21). It follows that the Johannine declaration that God is agape is inseparable from the self-giving that is the perchoretic unity of God. This is so even though there is in the Godhead the most complete, and indeed eternal return, of the Gift. In God the Giver, Gift, and Receiver are one and although the dynamic is full and the return complete, alienation is fully overcome. Milbank would argue that this return precludes primal sacrifice, but I see the divine return as precisely that which grounds an inseparable primal self-offering that, to be genuine, can only be willingly self-sacrificial. It is these dynamics that ground the Gift as communitarian participation, as koinonia, communion.

63Cf. Philippians 2:5-11.

64Jean-Luc Marion, “Sketch of a Phenomenological Concept of the Gift” in Postmodern Philosophy and Christian Thought, ed. Merold Westphal (Indiana University Press, 1999), 133.

65Actually, most of the specific statements of covenant in the Tanahk are unconditionally grounded in the sovereign undertaking of God. But some expressions of covenant state conditions, e.g. cf. Exodus 19:1-8. It may be held that the latter are grounded in the former and are embedded in God’s overall undertaking. If a conditionally posed aspect of covenant is broken, if we fail to participate in it, if we fail to participate in its benefits we, thereby, block God’s ever present provision from being fruitful. At its most fundamental, this is an anti-ecological despoiling of creation’s goodness. The result is wickedness and disease. But if we truly repent, God promises to renew the Gift – cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

66I maintain that the Gift itself, as given, is utterly unconditional, and does not demand any reciprocal response (to contend thus is to imply an inextricably theletic aspect to the inter-Trinitarian reciprocity that is the love of the Godhead). But the Gift does generate the condition for response. If the Gift is to be Gift it must remain Gift, the Gift must remain; and the Gift remains Gift by being Gift; the Gift is its own conditions, hence it is unconditional. Tautological though this may be, it is perhaps not vacuous. If it is to remain, the Gift cannot be exchanged and pass from the given present into an excluding possession. But if the Gift remains it invites participation. In participation the Gift remains Gift. To fail to participate is to reject the Gift; to reject the Gift nullifies it in the present; indeed, it rejects the present, such that consequences are generated and the coming future is modified. In this way the Gift, as covenant, has the shape of a pedagogically motivated conditional. It is within this analysis that we may hold together the unconditionality of the Gift at the heart of God’s covenant and the conditional incarnation of God’s covenant in history. Covenant and the responsibility of the love it entails have the shape of duty. However, it is not the same as a duty, as a dutiful work – rather, the responsibility is the promise of participation in the Gift.

67In this regard, in distinction to Derrida, and following Milbank, McAteer notes, “What if a person essentially is a locus of giving-and-receiving and not a self-sufficient atomic individual? This paradigm shift might allow us to ground ethics in beauty and virtue rather than duty and obligation.” (McAteer, “Gifts,” 2011).

68Indeed, Derrida analyses the logic of the Gift thus – someone gives something to someone other (cf. Jacques Derrida, Given Time 1: Counterfeit Money, trans. Peggy Kamuf, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, 11). However, Derrida then says that this (trans)action cannot take place. The object cannot be transferred from one subject to another subject. “… if there is a gift, it cannot take place between two subjects exchanging objects, things, or symbols” (Derrida, Given Time, 24). Inevitably the Gift is returned to the giver in terms of an equivalent gift. The Gift is never given away. However, this amounts to a failure –a failure to give and a failure to receive. The failure arises from seeing the Gift as a transitive thing, rather than as an open interpersonal relationship wherein both giver and receiver participate in the Gift. There is no exchange, not because there is no Gift, but because there is a Gift! The Gift is not returned because it is not an exchange. Rather, the Gift is the inviting opportunity, the promise, and the including context. In this way the Gift includes and transforms economy. By including the economic, Gift enables the economic to be joyous opportunity, to enable goods to be good, to be good for others, good for all. As we are included in the Gift, as we participate in the Gift, the Gift provides the context for our making goods available – the context of our participating in the administration, the economy, the hospitality, the love of God.

69McAteer, “Gifts,” 2011. However, more deeply, McAteer notes that for both Marion, and Derrida self-sufficiency is illusionary – the self exists only in its givenness. The self is ultimately dependent on what it receives from the other. McAteer quotes Marion, “It is in recognizing its debt that consciousness becomes conscious of itself, because the debt itself precedes all consciousness and defines the self: the self, as such, the self of consciousness, receives itself right off as a gift (given) without giver (giving).” (Jean-Luc Marion, “Sketch of a Phenomenological Concept of the Gift” in Postmodern Philosophy and Christian Thought, ed. Merold Westphal, Indiana University Press, 1999, 141

70Thankfulness is implicit in participation for participation entails a structuring of things in which the completion of some aspect is always in terms of the others that constitute the whole – nothing is complete in and of itself; therefore, each is thank-full of the other as the other indwells it and completes it, even as it indwells and completes the other. When this is realised the realisation takes the shape of thankfulness. Hence, communion is Eucharistic and the Eucharist takes place only in koinonia.

71McAteer, “Gifts”, 2011.

72The denial of participation is narcissistic and destructive. Our alienating market economy turns upon the turning in of selves upon themselves such that self-concern encompasses all in the grasp of the self. In such self-idolisation the world exists only for oneself and one’s own exclusive use – the world and its goods, seen as objects, are yet merely a mirror of the solipsistic self in its autoerotic, self-willed, exclusion. Such grasping is key in the self-concern of the primal human act of alienating; the alienating of a good such that it became destructive – as we read in Genesis 3 – an act of self-interested grasping that gave rise to human alienation. It is ironic that, for all Derrida’s deconstructivism, ultimately he too does nothing to deconstruct the market. Indeed, Derrida’s convoluted analysis of the given has a deeply narcissistic shape – see McAteer’s “Gifts”, 2011. A fortiori, Derrida’s analysis has a narcissistic shape akin to docetic Gnosticism that does not touch ground and leaves concrete matters entrapped in self-interest. But, in Philippians 2:5-11 we read that we are to have the same mind that was in Christ who did not grasp, but gave himself in self-emptying, incarnational, identification with us; we who were other.

73Matthew 5:40; Luke 6:29-31ff.

74Brian Capper has written an excellent discussion of Jesus and virtuosity, as evidenced within the Gospels by Jesus and his “prophetic virtuoso group”. Cf. Brian J. Capper “Jesus, Virtuoso Religion, and the Community of Goods”, in Engaging Economics: New Testament Scenarios and Early Christian Reception, eds. Bruce W. Longenecker and Kelly D. Liebengood, Eerdmans, 20

75Frye, “Be the Centre”, Vineyard.

76Compare Luke 4:18, Isaiah 61:1-2ff and Isaiah 11:2ff, with Luke 24:49ff and Acts 2:1-3ff.

77Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, Psalm 51:7-12f

78Cf. endnote 5. above.

79McAteer writes, “I don’t need a reason to be good. I want to be good. I see being good as beautiful (attractive). To need a further reason in terms of sanction is to be out of touch with truth, beauty, and goodness – to misunderstand the good (truth), to misapprehend reality (beauty), and to be less than virtuous (goodness).” – McAteer, “Gifts”, 2011.

80Jesus put the point negatively in the context of discussion of the Torah’s imperative concerning kosher food “obligations”. Mark 7:20-23 records Jesus as saying “What comes out of a person is what defiles him or her. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come – sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” The positive expression of this insight is to understand that it is also what comes out of a person that indicates his or her virtue, because it is from within a person’s heart that right practice arises.

81Cf. Romans 8: 29, 1 Corinthians 15:45, Colossians 1:15

82Jesus’ imperative, recorded in Matthew 6:33, to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”, wherein all the things necessary for appropriate, good living will be given, is not an external, mechanistically outworked, conditional. Nor is it a statement of external obligation. Rather, it is an invitation to recognise and participate.

83McAteer, “Gifts”, 2011.

84U2, “Unknown Caller”, No Line on The Horizon, 2009, track

85Dave Dobbyn, “Only Love Remains,” Anotherland, Sony, 2008; cf. 1 Corinthians 13:13ff.

86I trust that the irony intended here is similar to Isaiah 44:13-17ff.

87Dylan, Infidels, 1983.

88On belief as (a) work, see endnote 90 below.

89McAteer, “Gifts”, 2011.

90Western Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, has not been able to fully extricate itself from the anthropocentric notion that we are saved by our work. For all the Reformation’s thundering on about sola gratia against any idea that human work could secure salvation, Protestants (with Catholics) have continued to imply that faith is a believing, something we do, a cognitive work, rather than a matter of trust in which we participate. But the idea that saving faith is a believing we do is not the overarching emphasis of the New Testament. The idea that saving faith is a believing we do is not at all the stance of Paul, though he is the one most frequently invoked as saying that to be saved one must believe in Jesus Christ and, in saying that, “believe” is taken to entail some sort of cognitive effort of will. If that were so, if salvation depended first and finally on the quality and adequacy of human believing, then one has still a salvation by one’s work, by one’s mental effort.

But, what of those who through incapacity can’t do that cognitive work, such as infants, the aged, the slow of wit, those who have not “heard the gospel”, the aborted, etc? Indeed what cognitive and epistemic work is enough work, what degree of work ensures an adequate grasp such that it is saving? Can anyone, can you, be confident of that supposed degree of insight and belief?

If, in response, it is held that saving faith – where faith is yet a doing – is a free gift of God such that it is nothing of volitional work – though it is yet a doing – then one must take the predestinarian route to limited atonement which then makes any form of believing/trusting all but completely irrelevant for any incompatiblist view of human freedom.

But, in fact, Paul does not say, or imply, that “being saved” depends first and finally upon doing some cognitive work of believing in Jesus Christ. The NRSV translates Romans 3:21-22,

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

However, a more adequate translation is,

But now, apart from law, the justification of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the justification of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who trust.

Paul’s key expression is pisteos Iesou Christou – cf. Romans 3:22; Galatians 2:16, 3:22; Ephesians 3:12; Philippians 3:9, etc. Almost invariably modern translations incorrectly read pisteos Iesou Christou as an objective genitive and translate it as “faith in Jesus Christ”. There are Bible marketing, that is economic, reasons for this. The modern preference for the objective genitive reading is not a matter of good scholarship; rather it is a matter of Bible sales. Many – arguably perhaps the majority of – contemporary leading New Testament scholars understand that the expression pisteos Iesou Christou is correctly read as a subjective genitive and translated as “the faith(fullness) of Jesus Christ.” A significant argument for the subjective genitive view is that when pistis (faith/trust/faithfulness/trustingness) takes a personal genitive it is almost always a subjective genitive.

In passing, one notes that the King James Version of the relevant passages reflects a subjective genitive reading of the Textus Receptus.

The error has far-reaching theological significance. The more natural subjective genitive reading integrates better with the overarching biblical story in terms of both God’s absolute priority and God’s covenanting faithfulness within the narrative outworking of God’s saving grace.

The reading “through faith in Jesus Christ” perpetuates a theology that continues to see the believer’s faith – rather than the covenant faithfulness of God, in Jesus Christ – as decisively operative in salvation. The reading “through faith in Jesus Christ” perpetuates a theology which “finds” in the New Testament texts that the believer’s cognition is decisive for salvation. Paul’s pisteos Iesou Christou has been taken incorrectly to imply that a believer’s faith is critical for “obtaining” salvation. However, our faithful trust in God, through Jesus Christ, is the proper participative, but a posterior, response to God’s utterly prior and fully saving faithfulness.

The subjective understanding of Paul’s pisteos Iesou Christou is the lynchpin, of a recent major reworking of Pauline theology. Drawing upon, and attempting to radicalise the work on Paul undertaken by Stendal, Sanders, Dunn, Wright, et. al, Douglas Campbell’s magnum opus, titled The Deliverance of God: an Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009, addresses, from the perspective of biblical theology, Pauls’ understanding of justification/salvation in Christ. While it has been recognised that Campbell’s thesis is not without significant problems with respect to the status of the details and the felicity of some of his methodological moves, it is also widely recognised that Campbell’s identification of the issue that we continue to read Paul as if believing were a work remains a major problem that prevents us from grasping and responding to the gospel.

91Matthew 6:33.

92For a detailed discussion of the reflection of this emphasis in Luke-Acts see Aaron J. Kuecker, “The Spirit and the ‘Other,’ Satan and the ‘Self’: Economic Ethics as a consequence of Identity Transformation In Luke-Acts”, in Engaging Economics: New Testament Scenarios and Early Christian Reception, eds. Bruce W. Longenecker and Kelly D. Liebengood, Eerdmans, 2009, 81-103.

93Matthew 6:19-21.

94Cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37. This Jubilee-derived communalism did not fade away everywhere with the passing of the apostles – Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 220 CE) could write, “ … we have all things in common, except our wives” (Apology 39.11)

95Cf. Barton, “Money Matters”, 2009, 45-49

96Christopher Marshall in a sermon, titled “The Joy of Discovery”, on Matthew 13:44-46 and Luke 15:1-10, delivered at Karori Baptist Church, Wellington, on Sunday 12 June, 2011.

97Micah 6:6-8.

98Acts 2:43-45ff evidences the radical, public, consequences of being convinced of the immediacy of the future hope that Christians have in God, through Jesus Christ, empowered by God’s Spirit.

99Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss, Affluenza (Allen & Unwin, 2005), quoted from an edited extract posted at FairfaxDigital (30 September 2006

100Matthew 25:31-46.