The Catholic writer and speaker Fr. Robert Barron begins a session in one of his video series by stating, “You are not necessary! Neither you nor I are necessary!” I have often thought that this would make for an ironic hallmark card. On the front cover – “You are not necessary!” – and inside – “Have a nice day!” But Fr. Barron is not being flippant in this; rather he is stating an important spiritual truth. None of us, none of creation, everything that we see and discover around us – none of it is necessary. All of it continually flows from God. God alone is the one necessary; everything else from the largest galaxy to most finite speck of dust is dependent upon God and therefore not necessary.
Whoa … this is heavy and it can quickly weigh heavy on one’s mind and life. If all is dependent upon God then what happens if I really, really make him mad? Does he need to be appeased? Do I need to do absolutely correct every little thing that I think God wants done? God seems then to be opposed to my thriving. God, who alone is necessary, almost seems to be in competition with my freedom.
This would be valid (Fr. Barron continues) were it not for one thing; “God is love,” writes St. John. God is not the biggest unnecessary thing among other unnecessary things. God is not the biggest part of creation among other parts of creation. If these were indeed the case then yes, God’s presence would necessarily hinder my freedom, my thriving. One limited thing always hinders, always limits another limited thing. God is not one thing among other things; God is the source of all things and this source is love! The presence of God in a person’s life does not hinder one’s freedom nor does the presence of God compete with one’s thriving because there is no competition!
The quicker we learn this truth the better for us and the more easily we begin to grasp God’s economics.
No one likes debt. I know that I don’t. We want to be free of debt. We work our whole lives to pay off debts – house, car, college – that we might one day be finally free of the weight of any debt. In God’s economics there is a debt that we all carry, it can never be paid off and instead of denying life it brings life. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans (Rom. 13:8-10) writes these words, “Brothers and sisters, owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” We are all bound by the debt of love for one another, love for the stranger and even love for the enemy. What a strange economics where debt brings life but when we live the debt of love then we, who are not necessary, participate in that which is necessary – the very nature and life of God!
There is another component to the strange economics of God. In this strange economics sacrifice displays wealth. In God’s economics a large house, the latest gadgets, big toys (things which are not bad in and of themselves) are not the primary signs of success and wealth. The surest sign of wealth in God’s economics is the willingness to sacrifice, the willingness to let go of self. Authentic sacrifice is rooted in love for the other. Parents sacrifice unreservedly for their children then, near the end of the journey of life, children have the opportunity to sacrifice unreservedly in love for their parents. It may not appear on the cover of Fortune 500 but, in God’s economics, the surest display of wealth is sacrifice.
The prophet Ezekiel tells us that we are to be watchmen (and women). Part of being a watchman or woman in our day and age is to set our lives by God’s economics. I think our Lord in today’s gospel (Mt. 18:15-20) invites us to carry this economics even into our dealings with one another in community and in family. In God’s strange economics we all carry the debt of love and sacrifice witnesses to wealth.