Sabbath Economics: Negative Capital (Debt)

In a time of global economic crises and the Occupy Wall Street campaign it is interesting to reflect on debt and the role it plays in our lives. There were an estimated 488 million debit cards and 686 million credit cards in circulation in the United States in 2009 and an estimated 36 million debit cards and 16 million credit cards in circulation in Australia. (Source: Euromonitor International, January 2010).  Historically the dominant cultural driver has been religion or government – it is currently commerce.

The Jesus movement also stood in opposition to the dominant economic model of debt bondage in his day, modelling instead what Ched Myers calls “a re-communitized economy of generalized reciprocity of sharing and cooperation” (p.34)

How much debt does your household have? What are some ways we can imagine living beyond the bondage of this debt?

Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?


Talitha: (Unmarried/No dependents/Renting) I was raised to live within my means – to buy things second hand, pick up a bargain when things are on special, then when that money is needed further on because the car breaks down or something the resources are there, my family wasn’t wealthy but we had ‘enough’. It was interesting to reflect on how for all of us our childhood contexts were deeply impacting on our relationship with money as adults.  How do we role model good stewardship to our own children/the children in our community when they often aren’t participants in the financial choices that we make? A debt load such as a mortgage is a really deep commitment by families to embed themselves in this neighbourhood, a stability that is vital to my own capacity to be here,  but then to service that they need to work more hours – are there ways that I could help the families in my community pay of their mortgages faster, thereby ‘freeing’ them up? What other good work might happen?

 I liked playing with the concept of a credit card slip that is a gentle reminder of the bigger cost of spending beyond the purchase price. Want one for your wallet? Send no money now, for just 3 easy purchase payments of… lol, if there’s interest I’ll make ‘em free.  Keen to think about whether we could have a bit of a communal giving account to which I transfer the money that I would otherwise have spent on something I don’t really need – if I see that money as ‘excess’ to my needs, to what better use could I be putting it? E.g. I probably get a neck & shoulder massage at the mall four-six times a year, if I made a conscious decision to do massage swaps with someone in my community instead then 1) that would probably be another way we’re able to deliberately connect and 2) this might give me $120-180 for the kitty – and a reward of this stewardship would be being able to decide together on a purpose to put that towards that benefits others.

Also recommend checking out the Christians for Occupy page, we follow a God who isn’t far away but here among us – he would have been amongst the 99% but he would have left us to go and find the 1%. Yeah, we are called to solidarity with the poor but also to invite Zaccheus to share a meal at our table, how can we keep having conversations about finance that aren’t polarising and invite others to know another layer of richness in their life – that generosity is a gift that blesses the giver as well as the receiver?