Household Economics

"To choose simplicity is to live into complicated questions without easy answers,
taking one step that may make another step possible."

— Sharon Daloz Parks

Good economic practice - positive ways of exchanging goods and services - is about the well-being, the livelihood, of the whole household. In the face of great economic and environmental challenges, the Christian practice of household economics calls on us to manage our private homes for the well-being and livelihood of the small planet home we all share.

The Household
Our households are anchoring places that define our basic ways of life. Most of us call our primary dwelling place "home". Does the word "home" bring to mind your town or region, or your own house or apartment? Where does our planet home fit in? Do we defend the earth with the same vigor we may defend the security of our private homes?

The term economics suggests money, markets, investment, e-commerce, taxes, profit, etc. What are implications for our understanding of "economy", however, when we recognize that the words economy, ecology, and ecumenical are all rooted in the Greek word oikos, which means household? At what points do we try to resist the pervasive influence of the marketplace in our daily lives?

Busyness and Cumber
Do you find yourself working more and faster to secure a sense of belonging and well-being? Do you often feel bloated with cumber as you try to manage all the stuff that clutters your daily life? Many of us feel alone in our busy-ness. How might it relieve some of our fear and guilt to talk openly about these issues within the household of faith? Does your faith community challenge you to reflect deeply on the ways you spend your time and money?

Linking Faith and Money
What happens when we link faith and money matters in the church? Would you welcome mutual accountability on these matters, or do you fear that this could lead into difficult or uncomfortable areas?

Do we sometimes act as if our economic lives are separate from our "spiritual" lives? What does the Christian view of creation and incarnation-that God is 'home' here in the material world, dwelling among us-suggest about this supposed dichotomy? How do efforts to keep faith separate from economic life create divisions in our communities, such as those that can arise between businesspeople and environmentalists, or between the rich and the poor?

The practice of simplicity can foster a sense of right proportion and right relation within the dynamic and interdependent household of the whole earth. In what ways does this practice appeal to you, and in what ways are you wary of it? Have you noticed that practicing simplicity rarely seems simple?

Economic life is dramatically driven by technological development. How might a given technology affect both the natural world and our way of living together as human beings? How should the choices our society makes about right technology take into account questions of right labor - employee wages and benefits, layoffs, immigrant exploitation, industrial toxins? Within this context, what does it mean for Christians to live as signs of the Commonwealth of God?

Mutual Aid
"Mutual aid" means not only helping each other in need, but also helping each other break silence about money. How can our faith communities help us discern how well our economic witness corresponds to the ancient prayer of Christian asceticism, "God, make us truly alive"? How can we help each other find ways to reorder our use of time and money? How would our daily lives be changed by our immersion in a spirituality of "abundance and enough-ness"?

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Do not be conformed to this world. But be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.

— Romans 12:2

Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing... Instead, strive for God's kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

— Luke 12:22-23, 31

© 2006-2011 The Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith