“Sabbath Economics”… is the conviction that God’s creation is abundant, and that there is enough for all – if we live within the limits of our needs instead of by our cravings (p5)

Over the coming months the Footscray Girl Fridays will be reading Sabbath Economics: HouseholdPractices by Matthew Colwell and invite you to discern and discuss with us.

Chapter One: Surplus Capital

This chapter uses a great analogy of comparing an investment to a horse: “You can have a horse and use only what the horse produces (the manure); or you can use the horse itself, and not just what comes out of it.” (p25)

We often focus on the return of our investments but what are we actually investing in? How can we make the principle and the return work for the fulfillment of our values?

How many loaves have you?


(picture from: http://www.onlinegardenertips.com)

Talitha: (Unmarried/No dependents/Renting) I went as far as opening a trade shares account once but I could never quite bring myself to transfer money over to it.  There’s something scary to me about a million+ people ‘out there’ deciding the value of any given thing in the ‘market’ on a given day.  It is faceless and I’m giving the power to assign worth over to people I don’t know.  I even struggle with superannuation and insurance and a sense that these are first world constructs that replace community – if we live in a community where people look out for one another wouldn’t we provide for one another in need and care for one another if sick or old?  I don’t think I want to buy into that construct because it doesn’t feel like the ‘way it should be’, luckily I don’t have assets or dependents yet so I can stay on the fence a while longer!  Urban Seed  recently shifted their banking to be with mecu they have sustainable practices with economic, environmental and social outcomes such as tree planting to offset a car loan or buying land that is set aside for conservation to offset a mortgage.  I think I have a bit of a brain block about how much work it might be to switch banks, I think they sound cool but don’t change my own practice (in our chat last Friday we talked about printing out the boring paper work and completing it together so we’d have some support and accountability around this!).  Last year to boost the economy Kevin Rudd gave us all a tax break and Seeds/MannaGum ran a bit of a campaign called “Manna from Kevin” …here was some surplus income, how could we think deeply about how we spend it?  One couple put on a free breakfast for everyone who lived in their street – some thought the invitation was a practical joke but some really close friendships have grown out of that first shared meal together.  Another small group together decided to pool their stimulus package giving them $10K to create a job to pay someone half a day a week to do work in their community.  I thought about it myself for a long time – I’m not from a wealthy family and I don’t earn a lot now – $1,000 represents a large amount in my world.  What is my duty to my family?  what about those things I could improve in my own situation like replacing a fridge which is small and every shelf is broken and it doesn’t even stay that cold so milk goes off really quickly… I had to go through a bit of a process around reflecting on the fact that if I was going to give it grudgingly then I shouldn’t give it all, just spending it on myself would be as bad.  If I was going to give it away I should do so freely and joyfully – with open hands. This actually took a few months of praying about it, reading some of the bible passages that relate to money (Mark 12: 41, Luke 16, Matthew 20…), I started to hear the stories come in of how other people’s money was bringing about such good results… by this time I knew I wanted to give away my money too but I felt a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t wanted to do it straight from the start so I gave it all away without ever telling anyone about it – it went to a variety of things but one I have an ongoing connection with is KIVA  essentially they make microloans to people who would get turned down by a bank for being too small, or risky, or would take too long to repay – it’s often something small re-roofing their house or buying a bicyle so they can deliver flowers not just sell them at their front door to build their business – I like the idea of empowering people to change their own lives and once their initial loan is repaid I can choose to re-lend it to another borrower.  That initial ‘investment’ has allowed me to make 18 different loans so far. KIVA is US based I think, a quick google search brings up Australian sites http://www.microloanfoundation.org.au/ and http://www.opportunity.org.au/ that might be worth checking out…  I think the last few years has seen a huge shift in how I see money – I think it needs to move around or it becomes stagnant, good gifts go into gaps – keep giving, keep getting. I bless and am blessed and there is ‘enough’.  In the same way that money, as paper and metal, carries the value that humanity all agrees to rather than what it is materially worth, I’ve come to give it a different value of its worth in my life – it’s on the same level as any resource of time or skill that I could volunteer to something. Those aren’t resources you can ‘bank’ you just have to make good choices about how you use what you have at any given time.  Does that make sense?  Activist Philip Berrigan said “Hope is where your ass is”, well, I’m putting my money there too.

Naomi (Married/No dependants/RentingMy basic philosophy thus-far: work for fun not for money, don’t spend more than you earn and don’t worry your head off about tomorrow. I like it simple.

Having pretty recently got married, it dawned on me that it’s probably about time that I grow up and think a bit about money, money, money. We got the joint account … but it hasn’t progressed much further.

To get ahead in life, there are a lot of things I “should” be doing with my money – figuring out the tax breaks, buying a property or two, working a job that pays a decent wage and making my way up the corporate ladder, investing in the stockmarket. The thing is, in comparison to the majority of the world, I’m already ahead in life. Far ahead.

The money I have represents power. Every choice I make with what to do with my dollars, makes an impact. $2 milk at Coles, where the prices are down, sure is enticing to the hip-pocket, but is it the ethical choice? Rent or buy? Drop a few coins in to the busker’s hat, or not? And I haven’t got a clue what my super money is doing while I’ve got my back turned!

And so what do I do when faced with the overwhelming and over-my-head financial options? I put the paperwork aside and the decision making off for a rainy day.

So our Girl Friday chat was a refreshing breath of honest questioning. We can talk all we want about the concepts of Sabbath Economics (and believe me, I do want to chat & see it more!) but what does it mean for our real, daily actions with our money? None of us has it figured out, yet, but the corporate desire to make some headway is encouraging.

Check out Ched Myer’s article on the Biblical Vision of Sabbath Economics. I’m still working my way through it. Hope to comment more.