Economy of Grace
You will be reflecting on 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 this month as you study Lesson Seven on an “Economy of Grace.” When I traveled over last summer to introduce the study one of the questions that was frequently asked in relation to this lesson was this: “How do you define economy?” What a critical question for understanding Paul’s writings and my comments in the lesson.
The Greek root of the term economy is “oikos” which literally means “household” or “house.” When I use the term economy throughout Lesson Seven I am referring to the economy as “God’s household.” At the heart of my understanding of economics is the belief that the whole creation and all that lives therein is God’s. God’s vision for the flourishing of people, the planet, and the galaxies beyond then becomes the guide and hope for all of our human economic endeavors. What we need to consider is how to manage relationships well within God’s household. This is also how I believe that Paul would have understood the economy. Paul emphasizes in his letters to the Corinthian church that managing right relationships in God’s household means “generosity,” “sharing,” and “generous undertaking.”
I wonder when or where you have experienced this recently. Where and when have you been surprised by the sharing of others? Or, where and when have you been surprised by your own ability to share? I want to tell two stories about the upcoming generation of Presbyterian Women who surprised me recently by their generosity.
Our daughter, Emme, surprised me on Saturday by her willingness to share. She is a member of Girl Scout Troop #2248. As you know, February and early March is cookie sale season. On Saturday, Emme’s troop stood out in front of a local grocery store for two hours in sub-freezing temperatures to sell cookies. At the end of their time, another troop set up a table in their place. We took Emme out for a hot lunch afterward and a few minutes after she sat down at our table she said she wanted to go back to visit the other troop’s booth outside the grocery store so that she could buy some cookies. To be honest, I tried to keep her from going at first. It was twenty seven degrees outside and my toes had not yet thawed! But then she said, “Mom, I want to support the other girls. We did well at our booth. I think I can help them sell cookies at theirs.” For Emme, the cookies sales are about much more than the success of her own troop; they are about sharing.
Last week, I also noticed on Facebook a special post made by Melissa DeRosia, a friend and teaching elder in the PCUSA, about her daughter Lily. Lily, like Emme, is a Girl Scout. As a member of Girl Scout Troop #60509, she wrote a letter to the Kellogg Company to speak out against the mistreatment of workers who were baking the cookies (Find the story in USAToday by following this link http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/02/22/girl-scout-cookie-makers-fear-firings-ot/23813251/). Her letter read,
“We Girl Scout Troop 60509 have heard you have been treating your workers unfairly. We believe that all people should be treated fairly. We want to sell cookies that are made by a company that cares. You should change this. It would make the world a better place to live in. Take if from someone who cares.”
— Signed, Lily DeRosia and Girl Scout Troop 60509
You can still find a picture of the original letter posted on Melissa’s home page. When I mentioned this post to my daughter, Emme, she said, “Mom, that is the Girl Scout Law.”
I wonder if, together, we might reread Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 in light of the work of these emerging Presbyterian Women—Emme and Lily understand the importance of generosity, fairness, and sharing. How are they a challenge to us?
Paul’s writings and ideas about fair balance and the economy of grace are some of the most important concepts for us to engage, debate, and contemplate in our contemporary world. I wonder if you know stories of sharing from your local church, other organizations, or beyond your community. I hope you will take time to share them and challenge each other to surprise others with generosity.
Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you—so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. 2 Corinthians 8:7
Post (or send us) your own stories of sharing and generosity or how you envision an economy of grace.