Reposted from The Hannah More Project
A friend of mine once said to me, “I only work now, so that one day I won’t have to”. We shared a good laugh about her statement – a sentiment of how many people define what it means to make a living. If I’m honest, too, I share this idyllic effect of what life’s efforts should be. This is the American dream, right? Wendell Berry is a prolific writer (poet and prophet) of what it means to live in a manner worthy of being called “living”; and his definition is quite different from my friend’s ideology and the overall historic American anthem of “Work less and make more”. Such reductionistic investment, according to Berry, is not sustainable and is actually devastating to society and the sanctity of life. He advocates for and has sought to practice a lifestyle that involves the complex workings of a whole community – many hands sharing skills and resources, and distributing them equally among its members. The combined effort within any and every community, as God defined it to be when He said “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), is about generating new generations that reflect and glorify God’s wondrous works of love.
There seems to be an n economic correlation between working and loving. We are motivated to work for what we love. In God’s economy of love, endurance and disregard for greed is at the core. However, we seem to be hard wired to want to take the path of least resistance and keep what we think we rightfully earned along the way. There’s something to be said, though, about the result of generations of this kind of lackadaisical living. We desperately need Jesus, now more than ever, to rewire our brains and put new desires in our hearts to be “good stewards” of the earth and life itself. We need to understand the high price Christ paid for us to keep living. The price industry pays these days for us to keep living is so low that is perpetuates poverty and insufferable living. God’s design for generational living is being unraveled by the hands of mankind. Generations will cease to exist if God does not intervene. We need to know the reality of resurrection! We need to acknowledge the cost of living and act accordingly.
Berry sums up our current predicament this way: “Decades of cheap labor, cheap energy and cheap food (all more expensive than has been imagined) have allowed our society to incorporate itself in a material structure that will have to be seen as top-heavy. We have flooded the country, the roadsides and landfills, with shoddy “consumer goods”. We have too many houses that are too big, too many public buildings that are gigantic, too much useless space enclosed in walls that are too high and under roofs that are too wide. We replaced an until-then-adequate system of railroads with an interstate highway system, expensive to build, disruptive of neighborhoods and local travel, increasingly expensive to maintain and use. We replaced an until-then-adequate system of local schools with consolidated schools, letting the old buildings tumble down, replacing them with bigger ones, breaking the old ties of neighborhoods and schools, and making education entirely dependent on the fossil fuels. Every rural school now runs a fleet of buses for the underaged and provides a large parking lot for those over sixteen who “need” a car to go to school. Education has been oversold, overbuilt, over-electrified, and overpriced. Colleges have grown into universities, universities have become “research institutions” full of undertaught students and highly accredited “professionals” who are overpaid by the public to job-train the young and to invent cures and solutions for corporations to “market” for too much money to the public. And we have balanced this immense superstructure, immensely expensively to use and maintain, upon the frail stem of the land economy that we conventionally abuse and ignore.”
Ouch. Yes, these are painful truths in our modern day material world. But there’s nothing new under the sun and these are not the only truths. Every civilization throughout history has sought to capitalize itself by demeaning another; but God lovingly humbled Himself and became human to restructure, from the ground up, a secure foundation on which we can build an everlasting existence. While He was here on earth, Jesus established a spiritual economy of love that seeks to cultivate wealth within the soul. From the inside out, we can be inspired to care for each other and our world in a way that does not deplete our capacities but deepens our appreciation for and activates us to do what we were created to do – love God and love others. In the meantime, God’s love for us never runs out; and God will not let us forever manufacture glory for ourselves. One day, maybe soon, Jesus will come again to re-create all things. But until then, God wants us to keep our hands on the plow and to keep sowing seeds of love. May the words of the apostle Paul cheer us on: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
- photo by Jamie Wasson 2013
- What matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth by Wendell Berry