Gift Economy — Review and Commentary by Bernhardt Writer

Michael Horton’s Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World is summarized by the two section headings that divide the book: ‘radical and restless’ and ‘ordinary and content.’ The first section concerns evangelicalism and its contractual foundation. The second, reformed tradition and its covenantal grounding.

Two points stood out to me. First, how God gives gifts to His people who, in turn, give them to those inside and outside the faith through good works. Horton submits that our common labors such as: employee, employer, wife, mother, father, husband, etc. are part of the means by which to share with others God’s gifts to us. Horton calls this God’s covenantal ‘gift economy.’

He says that giving gifts back to God in ‘our service to Him’ is giving them in a direction He did not intend. These gifts are to be given to our neighbors for His glory.

The second point is that elders of the local church should, in their spiritual oversight responsibility, meet with members often to listen to, instruct, and, if necessary, correct them. The word that caught my attention was often. How much more attentive, representative, and corrective they could be if they did this in all the churches.

I also noted that Horton didn’t outline any specific program of evangelism. He emphasized the image of a garden where one plants, another waters, but God gives the growth. If we are giving God’s gifts to us to our neighbors then opportunities to share the gospel, in sincere friendship, will open for us.

Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts, 25 December 2003, Kelvin Kay, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

Reassurance

If you google (yes, to google is a verb) you’ll get:

re·as·sur·ance /ˌrēəˈSHo͝orəns/

noun

noun: reassurance

  1. the action of removing someone’s doubts or fears.

“children need reassurance and praise”

  • a statement or comment that removes someone’s doubts or fears.

plural noun: reassurances

“we have been given reassurances that the water is safe to drink”

This is interesting, because we all need some reassurance lately. Whether it’s because our health insurance has been cancelled, the insurance company hasn’t offered an alternative, and we’re forced to try the exchanges. Or, we’re a newly minted graduate with unproven skills that we’d use for mutual benefit like gangbusters, if only someone would give us a chance. Or, we’re a displaced older worker that still wants to contribute their skills to society and can’t seem to find anyone who will hire us for anything near (even half) what we’re worth to the employer.

Well, I don’t see it. If left to our own resources (just check the heavily commented websites) we almost squeal with glee at the displacement of humans by technology. Overpopulation, some say with the obvious solutions in mind. A mark of progress others say as they cite previous technology revolutions (market, first industrial, second industrial, digital, etc.).

All of these ‘revolutions’ recast how human labor was employed. Each caused worker dislocations. Some caused worker revolts. None were deterred (only derailed to the average worker’s detriment). They’ll tell you it will all work out. But we’re being inhuman of we go on like that. It won’t all work out. People are suffering needlessly. But we can’t return to the past.

The pundits on one side say if you get more of the pie I get less. So I should take your pie (oh, wait, they call it ‘re·dis·tri·bu·tion’). Some see nothing wrong with this. Others call it theft. The pundits on the other side say business should grow the pie. But business men just take more of the pie that’s left (I’m talking to you, Wall Street). We’ve been told to go shopping and buy from government exchanges, as if all will be better then. But that doesn’t grow the pie, either. It’s plain old manipulation. However, someone has to start growing the pie. It’s not going to grow itself, you know.

a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Pie slice, NCI at NIH, public domain

At lunch one day, I was discussing this problem with a friend whose politics differ from mine. We discussed the pie. However, neither of us had any since we’re both trying to lose weight after our job losses. I said we need savvy folks to start enterprises online and in bricks & mortar that use our displaced workforce and apprentice our new grads. Businesses are so refined now that training and loyalty has gone by the wayside. How will young workers grow into positions of responsibility? Why aren’t older workers tapped for their knowledge and expertise?

Now, you could say, these unemployed are the dregs of the workforce. They deserve what they got. And you’d be dead wrong in many cases. Good workers are being let go and not hired to boost stock performance. If you’re so concerned about quality employees, test them as a prequalification step. Give objective, targeted proficiency and psychological tests online as a gate of entry to the interviews. Grow and use trained interviewers with subject matter and social interaction expertise. You’ll be surprised what treasures you find.

Now what would you have them do? Well, figure out what we really need as a society and as a world and have them either make it for or serve it to us. We don’t need more pet rocks. But the world does need more energy, more clean and fresh water, safer roads and neighborhoods, better education independent of economic background, life mentoring, better preventative health care access, etc. You get the idea. Find a need and fill it.

Our technology can be leveraged to support these new enterprises in ways we don’t even bother using. Virtual offices will work if they’re managed well. The usual computer snooping software is unnecessary when folks are measured on productivity and results. When continued employment hinges on good cooperation and quality outputs, a factory, virtual service, or distributed design house (as examples) can flourish.

Meetings can be held online (many outplacement services work that way). Folks can gather centrally on a quarterly or less frequent basis once they’ve been vetted and oriented to the enterprise. Better minds than mine have worked all this out. Look for it and get cracking.

Funding can be raised via loans or investors. While loans may be hard to come by, more investment crowdsourcing is becoming acceptable and available. Check with your accountants and lawyers. I can’t figure it all out for you. You have to pitch in.

Think of it, how many billions of dollars are being left on the table in the interest of the bottom line because social responsibility and innovation are seen as what the other guy does? Granted it won’t be as profitable in the short run as the status quo of squeezing the life out of remaining workers. But in the long run it will pay dividends in work satisfaction, increased tax base, and societal growth and prosperity.

Responsible folks need to give this country (and this blogger) some reassurance and get ‘er done.