When Jesus looks at the world, he sees what can be. Jesus shows us what the kingdom of heaven looks like and asks us to live its principles here on earth. This means turning normal personal economics upside down. This is what Jesus' economy looks like. Here are five ways you can live Jesus' economy.
When Jesus first called his disciples, they dropped everything to follow him:
“Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.’ And immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him” (Mark 1:16–20 ESV).
Jesus’ earliest followers literally dropped their livelihoods to follow him—they completely dedicated themselves to him. Similarly, we are called to make sacrifices for Jesus—to show others love by giving, praying, and investing in them. For Jesus, belief and actions are one and the same—you cannot have one without the other. We must be willing to give whatever Jesus asks of us.
To a young rich man, Jesus says:
“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21; see 19:16–30 ESV).
Regarding a poor widow who put a seemingly insignificant amount of money into the offering box, Jesus says:
“Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43–44; see 12:41–44 ESV).
The currency of Jesus’ kingdom is different than ours. Jesus’ currency is self-sacrifice and love.
To a man with a recently lost love one, Jesus said:
“’Follow me.’ But [the man] said [to Jesus], ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59–60 ESV).
Jesus was right there, calling him in person. And this meant the man had to act now. We all have these moments in life: When Jesus tells us to act now, and we have to take him seriously when he says so.
For Jesus, it’s all about God’s kingdom. For us, it too should be all about God’s kingdom. From a different man, Jesus hears:
“‘I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:61–62 ESV).
There are no hesitations in service to God’s kingdom and there is no looking back—it’s all about what God is doing here and now. It’s all about putting our hand to the plow of God’s work. If you love God, you love the kingdom and you love people. If you love the kingdom, you’re not going to ask yourself what else is important: you’re going to just live for the kingdom.
At the end of it all, Jesus notes that he will recognize those who follow him by whether or not they are caring for the impoverished, outsider, and marginalized. This is what the "least of these" passage is about (Matthew 25:31–46).
Jesus has also given us a mandate to bring the gospel to those who are yet to hear his name. Jesus' economy is not just about alleviating physical poverty; it's also about alleviating spiritual poverty. Jesus tells us to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19–20).
God has asked us to demonstrate our belief by bringing good news to those who feel hopeless. We are called to drop everything for him. This is what Jesus’ economy is all about: envisioning what the world could look like and joining God in the process of making that vision a reality.
Jesus has called us to join him in his work—to believe in it with all we have. The cost may be hard to bear or understand at times, but when it’s put in the perspective of all that Christ has done for us—dying for our sins—it seems like very little.
When God calls us to something great, it is immediately followed by a faith decision. Similarly, every action towards making our world a better place is a faith decision.
For example, when we go about alleviating poverty or bringing the gospel to the unreached, we’re placing faith in what can be. We are looking at the current situation, calling it “not good enough,” and then acting to create a better situation. When Jesus calls us to help the poor, he expects a faith-based and faithful response. This response requires understanding our place in the world.
Jesus’ disciples were not expected to leave the world, but to be part of it—and to be vehicles of change in it. Jesus makes this point in his final prayer for his disciples:
“I do not ask that you take them [my disciples] out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth—your word is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:15–18 LEB).
From the beginning of our faith walk to the end of it in this life, our journey is about being in this world, as actors of change. Faith is not a journey that is about removing ourselves from this place, but one about bringing God’s kingdom to this place. It’s a chance to make change happen that matters—to be empowered to change the course of history for the better.
What we do with faith is as important as coming to faith, for what we do once we come to Jesus is what makes a difference in the lives of others. It’s where change for the betterment of our world occurs.
How is your faith connected to your actions? Is your faith changing the way you live each day, and the way you help others?
This post originally appeared under the title "The Unfathomable Power of Faith."
“Where do you want to be in five years?” a professor asked me in the middle of the crowded dining hall.
It was March of my freshman year at a Christian university.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered. “Maybe Uganda? Somewhere doing missions work, though.”
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to go into full-time missions, there was a problem with my answer. The problem was that I wasn’t being honest with myself. I didn’t truly see myself in Uganda, or even want to go there. But I wanted to want it, because I thought that was what faithful Christians were supposed to do.
I thought full-time overseas missionary work was the best work any Christian could be called to. That was my first mistake. The second was that I didn’t have a clear understanding of what being a missionary really was.
Like many Christians, I had a misconception about the nature of missions work. I was 19 and convinced that full-time missions work in an impoverished nation was the best way to serve God. And I was worried that it meant I wasn’t a good enough Christian if God wasn’t calling me away to do big and scary things.
I disregarded the fact that I am an introvert who is easily exhausted by groups of people. I disregarded the fact that God hadn’t given me gifts of public speaking, teaching, or leading. I knew I could learn all those things if the mission field required it of me. God would give me what I needed to succeed in his plans.
And that’s true. But I was disregarding the gifts that God did give me; and I knew that going into full-time overseas missions wouldn’t be the best way for me to use those gifts. I knew that I didn’t really feel called to Uganda. I had for a long time felt like God was calling me to worship and serve him through writing. Of course, I could’ve written in Uganda, but I knew God was asking me to not go that far—he was asking me to stay close by and work on creating art that could make people feel and remind them what’s important in life. He wanted me to spread the gospel right here.
Every believer receives spiritual gifts to use as a member of the body of Christ. These gifts empower us to do God’s work. Not everyone is going to be gifted and called to lead. Nor will everyone be called to missions work in another country. We’re all different, and that’s a great thing about the body of Christ:
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Corinthians 12:27–30 ESV).
It is important that believers work together as different parts of the same body. If a finger suddenly decided it didn’t want to be a finger anymore, and started to act like an ear instead, everything would fall apart. As a body, we will be most successful at spreading the gospel if we each use the gifts God has given us and not attempt to be someone other than who God created us to be.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4–7 ESV).
The professor saw through my lie and called me out on it.
“What really gets you going? What do you love?”
“I love writing. I’ve always wanted to write.”
“Why do you see yourself in Uganda and not in, say, Paris, writing every day at a café?”
“I-I don’t know.”
“Why full-time missions and not full-time writing?”
“It just doesn’t seem like enough,” I finally confessed.
There it was. Sometimes, doing the things we’re good at doesn’t feel like enough. Even when God gives us gifts, we disregard them in favor of pursuing what we consider to be a more noble or spiritual occupation.
I believed the myth that becoming a missionary in a far-away country was the best thing anyone could do for the Kingdom of God. I know I’m not the only Christian who has made this mistake, and this has led Christians to mission fields they do not belong in. When this happens, the kingdom is missing out on the work we are actually called to do.
Being a missionary doesn’t always mean traveling across the world. Being a missionary means taking on the mission of spreading the gospel—which is something we are all called to do:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV).
Being a missionary isn’t always about leaving. Sometimes it means staying right where you are and using the gifts God has given you. And no calling is higher or lower than another. The whole world needs the gospel, including the community you live in now.
After pursuing a writing career, God might still call me to Uganda. I’m keeping my ears open. But no matter where I go or where he calls me next, I’m going to listen and be honest with what I’m hearing.
I encourage you to do the same. Respond to the call God has placed on your life. Be a missionary in whatever you do.
Global catastrophes sadden us. The images are terrifying and experiencing such moments in history are deeply painful. Why does God allow this to go on? Is God causing it? Where is God in hurricanes and pain? Here are some answers that make sense biblically.
When God first created the world, he pushed back the chaos. He brought order where none existed. This is what much of Genesis 1–2 is about. This is why God’s focus at the beginning is the sky and the waters. He is pushing back the madness. He calls doing so “good.”
When God’s will is connected to natural disasters in the Old Testament—like the flooding of the earth—God is not happy about it. It’s a last resort. It means God letting his own work be undone. He isn’t causing the big disasters in the Old Testament; he is moving out of the way of the disasters that would be present otherwise. He wants order, not the chaos of storms. The storms sadden God. (Why destroy what you created? God wouldn’t want to destroy his own creation.)
God reaches his last resort in very distinct moments, like when an entire city has turned away from righteousness. This was the case for Sodom and Gomorrah, where not even ten righteous people could be found (Genesis 18:32–19:29). This was also the case for the flooding of the earth—only Noah and his family were found to be righteous (Genesis 6–8).
I know righteous people in the areas affected by Harvey and Irma; you probably know plenty of righteous people there too. If we do the math and run the probability of God causing all this, the answer here is pretty clear: God doesn’t want this. Instead, it’s caused by the chaos that still exists in the world. This type of chaos has been present ever since people went against God—ever since the fall of humankind with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Chaos was reintroduced into the world on that day. But there is good news in the midst of this sadness.
When Jesus came, died, and was resurrected, the very fabric of the relationship between people and God changed. Likewise, the relationship between people and the out-of-control creation changed. (Chaos took a serious blow.) Paul describes it this way:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves … as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22–23 ESV).
Creation awaits the full redemption of Christ, just as our very bodies—which are currently subject to death—await that redemption.
Jesus brought full reconciliation with God the Father to humanity. And one day all of creation will experience the full meaning of redemption. We have signs of this already in the acts of Christ.
Jesus calmed storms (Mark 4:35–41). Jesus walked on water (Matthew 14:22–33). Jesus talked about how to build spiritual houses that would withstand storms (Matthew 7:24–27). Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to do his work (John 14:15–31). We are able to look into the eye of the storm with hope because we know what is to come.
Pain and turmoil still exist because Jesus has not returned yet. Peter puts it this way:
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [of returning to earth] as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:10 ESV).
It is because of God’s great mercy that Jesus has not returned yet—because God wants to see many people come unto salvation. This is also why we have not seen creation completely redeemed.
When we experience great catastrophes in our world, it’s easy to doubt God’s mercy. It’s easy for us to look to God and place blame on him. But remember that one day new creation will come to be, when Jesus returns. Every tear will be wiped away and chaos will be completely put to rest. Death itself will end on that day (see Revelation 19–21).
Please pray for those in the midst of the chaos or recovering from it. Please pray for the chaos to be pushed back. Please pray because it matters. It can change things.
And take action. Support and encourage those living in the eye of the storm. Show them your love. You can even volunteer to help people rebuild. Or you can give fiscally to the relief efforts. There is power in God’s people coming together to fight back against the chaos. It shows that we believe that chaos won’t win.
This article is adapted in part from my older blog post “Is God Angry at the East Coast?” published on ConversantLife.com.
When I traveled to Northeast India, to one of the last unreached people groups in the world, I was making a good salary and a nice home. But this last year, my wife and I sold nearly all of our stuff and followed Jesus into the unknown of leading the non-profit Jesus’ Economy full-time without a salary. We sold our stuff, including our house, to make it work. The reason: We can’t live in a world where there are people without a voice and where there are people who have not heard the name of Jesus. We cannot live in a world where there are solutions to poverty and bringing the gospel to the unreached, and not take action.
In Northeast India, I saw the Holy Spirit work—and I saw the liberty of Jesus completely transform lives. Those who had formerly never heard Jesus’ name were so grateful that they now knew Jesus. But there are still 101 Million there who have not heard Jesus’ name. How can I live in a world like this and not do something about it? I also had other reasons for making such a drastic life change.
How could I not serve a God who has given me my very voice? God helped me learn to speak—95% of what I said as a child could not be understood but I now speak perfectly. How could I not be willing to give up everything to follow this God?
Creating a more equitable and just world is part of my calling, as is bringing the gospel to those who have not heard Jesus’ name. It’s how I’m called to use my voice.
But I think we’re all called to this mission. It will look different for each of us, but what’s certain is that Jesus will drastically change your life. Here are three biblical lessons that I regularly come back to during this journey.
The Bible’s grand vision for the world is seen at the end of Revelation. It’s a world where there are no more tears, where there is no more pain, where God’s people stand equal and in loving relationship before God. The Bible’s trajectory is clear—evil will be destroyed and good will be restored. Justice and equity in their full form will exist when Jesus returns.
The followers of Jesus will sit down at a table and celebrate. They will celebrate justice and equality for all. They will celebrate what Jesus has done (see Revelation 19; 21).
In the meantime, we’re called to be ambassadors of this message—to be people who help make way for the kingdom of God here and now. Global equality can come to our world. Justice can come to our world. We can create equal opportunities for all. Each person can have a place at this table. And when we make these opportunities for the impoverished, we bring a piece of the kingdom of God here.
One of the things we often forgotten about the story of the Good Samaritan is that it involves one man responding to an opportunity to do good. A Samaritan sees a man who is beaten and poor on the side of the road—and he takes care of him. He steps in when all others have ignored the hurting man on the side of the road. The Samaritan sees an opportunity to do good and acts upon it (Luke 10:25–37).
Today, we likewise have an opportunity to do good. We often forget that there are opportunities right in front of us, each and everyday, to change the lives of the hurting. There are opportunities to help our neighbors who are far away and to engage in relationship with those who are near.
Doing good betters our entire world. Creating opportunities for the impoverished, outcast, and marginalized to be empowered is good for us all. What’s good for you can be good for me; what’s good for them can be good for us. Because we’re all connected in some way or another—in some sort of loose affiliation. We’re all human after all.
In the book of Romans, Paul the Apostle notes that he intends to travel to Spain (Romans 15:24). This is because he plans to bring the gospel to the far western point of the known world of the time. Meanwhile, Thomas the Apostle—according to Syrian church tradition—was bringing the gospel to India. That’s the far East of the known world of the time. There is a global trajectory here. This is a direct reflection of Jesus’ command to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
While on this path, the early church leaders recognized just how interconnected their efforts were. We see this when Paul raises funds for the impoverished in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). We also see it in the numerous mentions of other churches in Paul’s letters. And we see this interconnectedness in the story of the book of Acts, which involves multiple missions out from the Jerusalem church and the church at Antioch to bring the gospel to other cities and regions.
Our world is more interconnected today than ever before. And we can leverage these connections for the sake of the gospel. The work of the early church is far from complete. So my question becomes: What are we going to do about it? And what do you see when you look at the world?
When I look at our world, I can see how we can create a new, global and spiritual economy for those that need it most. I can see how the thirsty can have clean water. I can see how marginalized women can have gainful employment that lifts their entire families out of poverty. I can see businesses in the developing world creating opportunities for us here in the U.S. I can see the freedom and liberty of Jesus being accessible to all. I can see us rallying together around the common good of equality for everyone. I can see grace reaching every person.
How is Jesus asking you to drastically change your life?
We look around us and are daunted by the poverty and suffering and darkness we see. We know it will take a lot of work to change, and we know God asks us to, but we often choose to sit back and wait.
It’s easy to be lazy and complacent and wait for other people to do the work. But these are some of the most dangerous ideals. They threaten the kingdom of God. The whole body of Christ needs to be working together if we are going to get things done. Even if the hands are equipped with a hammer and nails, they can’t get anything done if the feet don’t take them to the construction site. We simply have to rely on each other. Paul uses the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians to remind the church of the importance of unity. He says:
“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:24b-26 ESV)
We have our own jobs, families, and lives, and these things help us justify spiritual laziness in the church. Sometimes, we don’t even notice we are failing to act because we feel like it’s a positive thing to be investing in ourselves. Laziness can, and often does, mask itself as selfish hard work. We might be working for recognition and self-righteousness instead of in love and for Christ. But we have to acknowledge that work done for the wrong reasons has no place in the kingdom of God.
The body of Christ needs to be operating together—and it needs to be moving with the intent God desires. When believers do things for the wrong reasons, the action itself is rooted in selfishness and sin. The action may be fruitful for a time, but it will crumble because it has the wrong foundation. The church cannot stand on actions carried out without love. Paul understood that it is difficult for believers to be united for the right reasons:
“And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:1 ESV)
I know we’re all a little tired; it seems like less work to focus on our lives than it is to participate in a body of believers. It’s especially hard when we don’t call all the shots. Listening to God’s direction, and any leader’s direction, makes us incredibly vulnerable. When we start putting others first, we stop guarding ourselves as much as we like to.
But it is vital that we do this. We radiate God’s love when we love others. And the body of believers will not lose anything by rejecting selfishness, and choosing love instead. Paul reminds us:
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV)
It’s not enough to have action without love, and it’s not enough to love without action. The things we do on a daily basis should be in response to the callings God puts on our lives. We need to be giving it all we have. Paul returns to this issue in his letter to the Colossians:
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 ESV)
Let us, as the church, check our motivations at the door and leave our selfishness at the foot of the cross. Think of what we could accomplish together, if we truly acted as one, with a heart of love and thankfulness:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23 ESV)
Satan wants a lazy church. We fail when we work for people and not for the Lord. But if we, as different members of the same body, rely on love—if we root ourselves in the foundation of God’s love—we can bring real change and light to the world.
One of the biggest challenges we’ll ever face as a Christian comes when God says, “Stay.”
We’ve all been there. And I don’t know about you, but that command only gets harder to hear the older I get.
It can be one of the most difficult things we have to do, especially when we see people all around us actively doing amazing things for the Kingdom. You probably know many people changing jobs, starting movements, and uprooting their lives across states, or even countries, to follow where God is leading them. Maybe that’s you right now. Whether you are in a season of action or not, you will undoubtedly come to a time in life when God says, “Stay.”
It makes you feel small. It makes you feel weak. It makes you feel unneeded. We get uncomfortable because we know that in order for big things to happen, people have to actually be doing things. And sitting on the sidelines feels wrong.
However, just because it feels wrong, doesn’t mean we are being punished for being bad servants or that it is wrong at all. Everyone needs rest sometimes.
Our job in these moments is to listen to what God is telling us. Why is he asking us to stay still? What are we supposed to do in the quiet? The answer is going to be different for everyone, so if you want to know what God is asking of you, you have to grapple with it yourself.
The biblical King David dealt with many moments of waiting on God. In his darkest turmoil and loneliness, he came to a deep understanding of stillness and quiet, and what God wanted him to learn from it.
Throughout the Psalms, he cried out to God continually because he felt alone, forsaken, and scared. One psalm (while not ascribed to David) is a reminder that it is alright for God's people to not constantly be taking action.
“Be still and know that I am God. / I will be exalted among the nations, / I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10 ESV).
The silence does not mean God is telling us to be lazy or apathetic to his plans. Sometimes it means that he is doing something big and we just need to wait. David encouraged God’s people to find peace in the waiting. He says,
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, / all you who wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 31:24 ESV).
But it’s not always easy for us to be at peace with the silence. And it wasn’t easy for David, either. At a time when he was facing intense depression and exhaustion, he says,
“I am weary with my crying out; / my throat is parched. / My eyes grow dim / with waiting for my God” (Psalm 69:3 ESV).
Yet in all his suffering, he learned that God’s timing would always be better than his own. In the same Psalm, when his throat is aching and his eyes are puffy with tears, he declares,
“But as for me, my prayer is to you, / O Lord. / At an acceptable time, O God, / in the abundance of your steadfast love / answer me in your saving faithfulness” (Psalm 69:13 ESV).
David, a man after God’s own heart, had to learn how to rest in God’s silence and find peace in his timing. And it wasn’t easy for him. While he valiantly waited about 15 years until his time to become king, at other times he made big mistakes.
David often despaired, as we all do. He cried out hundreds—probably thousands—of times for God to listen to him. The silence tore him up. But he waited on God, and he grew in faith because of it.
“But I am like a green olive tree / in the house of God. / I trust in the steadfast love of God / forever and ever. / I will thank you forever, / because you have done it. / I will wait for your name, for it is good, / in the presence of the godly” (Psalm 52:8-9 ESV).
Being grounded often seems like a punishment to us. It creates a crisis within us and we begin to question who we are and who God is. And that’s OK. Cry out. Struggle with it. Fall on your knees and really listen to God. Listen to the silence.
If we are to be truly Christian, we cannot let Christianity be merely an idea.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. … For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:18, 26 ESV).
Christianity is about our life values changing—from our beliefs to our actions; from how we think about our money to how we spend it; from how we think about time to how we use it.
We cannot look at the suffering of our world and do nothing about it, and still call ourselves Christians. The way we view our faith should change absolutely everything about how we live—from our giving to our shopping, from our faith to our deeds. Being Christian should change the very way we view the world.
Our world is more interconnected than ever before. The opportunity to end extreme poverty is greater than it has ever been—meaning we’re more likely to do so. But for that to happen, Christians have to step up and live the values of our faith.
Christianity must be a movement based on self-sacrifice. And the time is ticking for us to make that a true statement. Because there are people already exploiting our interconnected world: Think of the 2012 factory fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh; child labor being used to make products; and many other horrific atrocities that have resulted from manufacturing clothing alone. We don’t often think about it, but our purchase choices—when we buy cheap stuff, made cheaply—are contributing to global inequality. And this is just one example among many of where Christians should be setting a better example.
We need to be better informed; we need to make better purchasing decisions. And we need to have more fair trade purchasing options—options that involve the fair treatment and payment of workers. We also need to empower the impoverished in the process.
Our world has already recognized the value of the interconnected globe, and the potential of developing economies, but Christians are struggling to catch up.
We saw how connected our world was on the day that Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19 Billion dollars. Think about that: $19 Billion. When Facebook made the purchase of the messaging system WhatsApp for this staggering figure, one of the main reasons cited by analysts was that WhatsApp customers represented an emerging market. And many of these customers were in the developing world! The emerging market that analysts had in mind were developing world customers. Wall Street is now calling the developing world an emerging market.
Our world is interconnected. The question is whether we, as Christians, will leverage these connections for the betterment of the impoverished or allow the impoverished to be exploited?
We can leverage the connections in our world for the betterment of everyone. One idea: provide online commerce opportunities to the impoverished. Give them direct-to-customer access. At Jesus’ Economy, we’ve pictured this as an online Fair Trade Shop.
And lest anyone say that this won’t fix the problem. Think of this anecdotal evidence: Amazon.com is already valued at over $900 per share and many estimate it will cross $1,000 per share. Its wealth alone is much greater than many developing countries. That’s how much economic power there is in commerce. I think capitalism can be redeemed—for the good of everyone. Capitalism can help us create global equality.
Imagine if online fair trade opportunities were also connected into a global network of experts who could train the impoverished on hard business skills (such as accounting); moving through a product development cycle; and ethical business practices. And then imagine, if the impoverished who received this training had access to microfinance (small loans) to grow their businesses—to purchase tools or hire staff.
We must look at the world differently. By and large, the world has been looking at microfinance as something limited to a local economy. In current microfinance models, we have one poor tomato farmer selling to one poor cattle farmer—and dollars within the economy are just exchanging hands. One person may become wealthier but the overall economy is still impoverished. We need a new microfinance model.
What we need is money coming into an impoverished community from the outside. This is where global ecommerce comes into play. In our interconnected world, I can manufacture Jesus’ Economy branded t-shirts in Kampala, Uganda and bring money into the local economy simply through the purchasing power of U.S. buyers. In return, I can create jobs for a group of impoverished young people.
I can help not just with my giving but also with my shopping. My dollars say what I believe in.
This would mean a new economy. It would mean renewal. Money would sweep in from the developed world into the developing world and lift entire families out of poverty. This is the type of thing that Christians can do together—to end extreme poverty. This is one way we can show people that Christianity is more than an idea. This is one way for us to create a more just and equitable world.
As a child, 95% of what I said could not be understood. But my mother insisted that I be allowed to enter school as a normal student and hired speech therapists. Nothing short of a miracle later, and a ton of hard work, I now speak perfectly. But I remember that I was once the voiceless.
Around our world there are millions of people who lack access to these opportunities. And there are millions who are kept poor because of their social standing, or the color of their skin, or corrupt regimes. And I cannot live in a world like that.
I cannot live in a world where there are people do not have a voice.
It takes more than ideas to change the world. It takes more than belief. But belief is a start.
Every significant advancement toward equality in our world has required sacrifice—more than ideas, more than belief. From the abolition of slavery, to the right for women to vote, to civil rights for African Americans, to the end of apartheid in South Africa—a movement of self-sacrifice has backed beliefs.
The biblical book of James put it this way:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:14–16 ESV).
True faith requires sacrifice—for the betterment of others. True faith requires that we do more than pray, or wish others well, or have the right theories or ideas.
I believe in a few things that are worth sacrificing for: Jesus as my savior for starters. And that this same Jesus has in view a global economy that will make our world a better place. That there is such a think as a Jesus’ economy.
When we talk about ‘economy’ we usually think of GDP, stock prices, and currencies. While I intend for the term Jesus’ economy to evoke these ideas, there should also be a part of the name that is a bit jarring. Jesus and economy aren’t usually paired together, but they should be.
Jesus believes that each and every life is of equal value. And thus Jesus’ economy is about empowerment of the impoverished. It is also based in the belief that empowering the impoverished is for the betterment of the entire world. Jesus’ economy is about creating a new spiritual and physical reality for the impoverished and marginalized—for those most in need.
Today, there are many people who claim faith in Jesus, but I ask: Where then is the action, the change, the renewal of our world? Why are there still millions upon millions of people impoverished? Prayer is not enough. Words are not enough. A mere claim to salvation is not enough. James puts it this way:
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” (James 2:18–20 ESV).
A belief in Jesus requires action. As James puts it: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26 ESV).
Jesus’ economy is based on self-sacrifice and its currency is love. It is a belief that the voiceless deserve to be heard. It is love in action.
Imagine what could happen if we all rose up and took action. Imagine how the world would view Christianity. Imagine the lives that would be renewed. Imagine.
Our world is more interconnected than ever before. We could legitimately provide every last person on our planet with access to the gospel in our lifetimes. Here’s why I believe that.
We have better technology at our disposal than ever before. And we can leverage this to bring the gospel to the unreached.
Today, I can video chat with a church planter in the developing world from Washington state. Google Hangouts and Skype gave us all that ability. Potentially, I could on a video call answer a biblical question of a church planter in the field—in a remote village, because pretty soon, 3G and 4G is going to be everywhere. That’s at least the plan of big tech companies—with their efforts empowered by a space company who can now send reusable rockets to space to launch satellites. This is the age we live in, one where any person on the planet can potentially connect to any other person in seconds.
All the sudden, the issue of training and empowering church planters is far simpler than it has ever been. And the interconnection between those who sponsor church planters and the church planters themselves is greater than it has ever been.
Imagine the potential for global discipleship in this world. I first realized this when I was sitting next to a church planter in Bihar, India and he showed me the screen of his Motorola flip phone. On the screen was my bio on JesusEconomy.org. He said, this is you, right? I was first surprised by how good our website looked on his phone—leave it to me to notice that first. But my second thought is what changed my life: If this guy can look up my bio on his phone, right here while we’re talking, what if I put a study Bible in his hand? What if I gave him a full Bible dictionary and a Bible translation? What if I gave him Bible studies in his native language? And, of course, we can do this. We could even send him video courses on SD cards. We could put any piece of information in his hand.
This is our world. It is more interconnected than ever before. And it means completely rethinking missions.
If our churches thought long and hard about their budgets, we could—like the churches of Paul’s day—pool our resources to bring the gospel to the unreached corners of our world (see Romans 15:26–29). If we sponsored indigenous church planters, it’s surprisingly cost-effective to fund missions.
The church should be innovating in this space. And in the process, we should be thinking holistically about how we approach poverty and reaching the unreached—thinking about how we care for a person’s soul, mind, and body. We should be leveraging every opportunity possible to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
The fact that the gospel has not reached every people group on our planet is an injustice. And it’s an injustice we can correct.
Likewise, it’s an injustice that the people of our planet do not have clean water. And with technology we can do something about. It’s an injustice that everyone on the planet does not have access to economic opportunities. And in this world, in this time, we can do something about.
Justice is a central cry of the Bible. The works of the prophets are full of calls to create a more just world (Micah 6:8; Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 22:3; Amos 5:23–24). Isaiah put it this way: “Learn to do good! Seek justice! Rescue the oppressed! Defend the orphan! Plead for the widow!” (Isaiah 1:16 LEB).
Jesus himself told us that he will distinguish between those who truly know him and those who do not by what they do for the marginalized, outsider, prisoner, and impoverished (Matthew 25:37–40). And we know from James that true religion is loving the hurting and the poor—the widow and the orphan (James 1:26–27).
Indeed, it is unjust when a child has to go without clean water, healthcare, or education. It is unjust when a parent doesn’t have access to a fair paying job that can lift their family out of poverty. It is unjust that there are millions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus. Let’s do something about it.
Let’s innovate the bring about a future of missions where every last person has heard the name of Jesus and experienced his love.