Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Evolving thoughts on Stewardship

Paul commented on my last post and got me thinking more specifically about it. I think my original post was getting at two different things, though I don't think the ideas were formulated well enough in my mind for me to present them very clearly.

Here are my evolving thoughts and response to his comment:

First there is the issue of guilt. I guess what I was wondering was, according to the passage in Jeremiah, is God displeased when I go about my life blithely thinking that I have never done anything to "hurt" poor people, when in fact, much of my comfort is attained through the exploitation of the poor (through goods they have worked to produce, yet have not been paid adequately, etc.)

Second there is the issue of what can be done. I reject the notion that we are somehow helping people (even in a small way) when we buy these goods. We don't help by perpetuating the systems that keep them in bondage. We don't help them by buying from the system and thereby making the system more powerful. We help them by bringing them out of the system and helping them find work that will keep them out of poverty.

I realize that I don't have hard data to present about the income of the average worker in different countries. (I wanted to supply it, but have not had time to search for it.)

So, maybe the questions are both theological and practical. What does God think when we purchase from systems that exploit their workers? And what kinds of things can we do, both political and charitable, to bring people out of those systems?

Where is everyone on this? Cup-a-Joe? Maureen? Leslie? Lurkers?

Gimme some thoughts here, peeps.

Edit: Thanks, Angel for posting that resource. I didn't see your comment until after I had already posted this.

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Anonymous mom a said...

For you, Lori, and for those of like mind, the magazine Soujourners is a wonderful support and resource for exploring this issue and for suggesting political and life style changes to help change things for the better. You can Google that title; also try FINCA for a lesson in really changing peoples'(purposely plural) lives in impoverished nations.

Thu Feb 09, 11:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

This is an issue that is dear to my heart.
The Lord is not pleased with people who steal bread from the mouths of the widows and the orphans to feed our obesity.

But first, an exegetical note. Most of the references in the OT about orphans and widows are referring to the powerless and poor. It was assumed in an agricultural setting that a healthy male was capable of earning his bread by the sweat of his face. (Gen 3:19)

A widow or an orphan would have no capacity to feed themselves and thus would live off the charity of the community. That being said, a study of these references brings a fuller understanding of God's heart and intentions for his people toward those who are poor.

My thoughts to come...

Mon Feb 13, 06:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

Take 4:
I am having a hard time writing a response to this topic. I want to ramble along a broad path tying in many related side issues, but the comment ends up being small novel length. Let me try to stay focused:

Clearly, we cannot blithely go on about our business buying and selling as if there were no repercussions. We know better than that.

Also, I agree with you Pez, simply saying that buying Chinese products that they made for $.10 an hour (average worldwide wage for unskilled labor, up from $.05 a few years ago) and saying, "well I am giving someone a job" is clearly not an option once you understand that God is not pleased with this behavior.
If I give alms to a man I forced into the poorhouse, is this pleasing to the Lord?

The question becomes, since there are so few options for preserving our sanctity (set apartness) can we continue to participate in the worldwide economic system?
But then, how do we not? Log cabin in the woods, anyone?

I have had similar conversations with several people over the years and a few themes have emerged:

1) Avoid purchasing unnecessary things: buy what you need, not whatever you want

2) Shop at thrift stores: There is something humbling about sifting through items at a second-hand store. You will rub elbows with people of different classes, and you will recognize the transience of this life. After all, you are rooting through the accumulated stuff of people who no longer need any of it. Someday this will be your stuff on a shelf, use what you need and leave it for someone else.

If anyone has other items to add, feel free. We could all use the ideas.

Mon Feb 13, 07:18:00 AM  

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