Every community has different levels of sacrificial giving. Some people give lavishly, some miserly. There are those, as well, who only take from the community, without making any contribution whatsoever.
Every community has a means of exchange in play. Money is a futile man-made attempt at assigning value to the process of exchange that is happening in a community, a material show of the giving and receiving that is taking place in relationships.
“A good name is to be more desired than great riches, favor is better than silver and gold.” (Prov. 22:21) Why is favor better than silver and gold? Because, among other more noble things, favor produces silver and gold. Relationships, and value given in and through those relationships, are the functioning of economy in community.
There are basically three levels of ‘economy’ in a community: 1) The economy of the flesh, 2) The economy of reciprocity and 3) The economy of sowing.
The 1st and lowest economy is the economy of the flesh, or “sowing to the flesh”. (Gal. 6:8) It is simply selfishness.
“There is one who withholds what is justly due, but it results only in want.” (Prov. 11:24)
“He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.” (Prov. 11:26) Withholding the grain is selfish, but releasing it into commerce is better.
The 2nd Economy, that of reciprocity and social commerce, is akin to Phileo love: “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” It has the Law as its foundation. “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.” (Prov. 11:1) God loves proper reciprocity. His Law is holy, righteous and good. (Rom. 7:12)
The problem, however, is that due to natural man’s selfish nature, it is impossible for him to create that ‘just balance’ in relationships or money without failure in some way. This is where the power of forgiveness comes in. Without forgiveness, all relationships and economy among people will fail miserably. Forgiveness is part of the highest 3rd Economy, because it is given willingly, for no deserving reason.
“…mercy triumphs over justice.” (Js. 2:13b)
The Law says, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, equal recompense, but the higher law, the law of liberty, says, “I desire compassion and not sacrifice” (Matt. 9:13).
The ‘engine’ of human relationships and economy in community can only function without burning up, by adding the oil, the lubricant that comes from the 3rd Economy, which is that of unconditional love, forgiveness and willing sacrifice.
Jesus taught that when a seed falls into the ground, it dies, being completely released from human control, placed into God’s hands. This is reflective of the 3rd Economy, the economy of sowing.
“The Kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows- how, he himself does not know…” (Mk. 4:26)
This seed, however, does not operate by reciprocity “an eye for an eye”, but rather by multiplication. God is the One Who raises the seed up, causing its growth and multiplication. This is the origin of life: releasing control of the harvest (expecting someone else to repay you) and giving, releasing the seed into God’s hands, forgiving the wrong, forgiving the imbalance. This produces the multiplied harvest of the highest 3rd Economy, the economy of the Spirit.
“For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” (Gal. 6:7-10)
The origin of all sacrificial giving and forgiveness is love: “God is love.” (I Jn. 4:16) Man cannot forgive in and of himself, apart from God, and he must respond to God’s forgiveness for himself before he can then turn and forgive others. “…he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Lk. 7:47) The reciprocal of that would also be true, then. ‘He who is forgiven much, loves much.’ The more of God’s love and mercy we receive, the more we are able to give. As we are connected to the ‘vine’ of God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy for our own lives, the ‘fruit’ that is produced through our lives begins to manifest, and that fruit expands into the lives of those around us, creating in and through our lives a manifestation of God’s grace toward others.
The multiplication of grace that flows out of our lives toward others, not only gives them a ‘just balance’, but even more that that. This manifestation of the 3rd Economy (or highest economy) thus establishes and expands the 2nd Economy. “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” (Rom. 3:31) The 3rd and highest economy of love and forgiveness establishes the 2nd Economy and goes way beyond it. “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace…against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:23) Mercy will always triumph over judgment!
This process of forgiveness is like the model of kinetic energy, as several metallic balls are suspended by a wire on a frame. When a person lifts the end ball, letting it strike the ball nearest to it, the energy then transfers through the other metal balls, causing the last ball to jump. The energy was transmitted from the first, initial act, to the last, and the last ball responded in like manner. The natural response to God’s love and forgiveness for our own lives is to, in response, allow that same energy to move us to do the same for others.
So what happens if we receive God’s love for ourselves but do not allow it to pass through our lives to the forgiveness of others? Jesus told a parable of a servant who was forgiven a great debt, but then would not in like manner forgive a smaller debt that was owed him. This man was handed to the tormentors. (Matt. 18:21-35) When we inhibit the love of God from flowing freely through us to the benefit of others it only brings frustration and despair upon our own lives. All it takes is a simple choice, however, to unblock this necessary flow.
The conclusion of this exposition of three economies is that we should overcome the course of the natural world by choosing to forgive when confronted by inequity, sowing it into the hands God. When we choose to do this, we set our lives up to reap a multiplied harvest. Living a life on purpose to give and to forgive is the highest means of exchange. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)
“But if you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor (grace) with God.” (I Pet. 2:20)
There will undoubtedly be times of misunderstanding, suffering and hardship for one who is laying down his life in the service of others in God’s Kingdom Community. The only way to stay the course is to routinely exercise the love and forgiveness of God toward others. It is the foundation of the Christian faith, and it is the only sure road to a prosperous and successful life: spirit, soul and body.