This weeks excerpt comes from the end of Chapter One in which I lay out God’s original design for human society and socio-economic ideal we never really got to experience before at all went to hell… Say tuned for more weekly updates and excerpts in the run up to the release of “Meekonomics – A Journal of Economic Recovery” coming soon.
Naked and Unashamed
At the end of Genesis Chapter Two we are left with an image if idyllic utopia that has never since been matched. At the zenith of God’s Perfect Economy we read this;
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. [Genesis 2:25]
That one sentence sums up the nature of God’s Perfect Economy completely. But not necessary in the way church history has taught us to think.
Brian D. McLaren in his book “A New Kind of Christianity”  argues that ever since the Romans sanctioned Christianity in the third century the meaning of the stories in the bible have been distorted and hijacked by a Greco-Roman philosophy that is incompatible with the Hebrew philosophy that gave them birth. Contrary to the way it has been interpreted by everyone from Saint Augustine to Calvin, Luther, Wesley and even present day theologians like John Piper and R.C. Sprole, the bible is not a Greco-Roman story. It is a Judeo-Hebrew story. Unless and until we understand the difference we will never understand the overarching narrative story of scripture.
The Idea of being “Naked and Unashmed” then, must not be read with a Greco-Roman understanding of perfection and utopia. To return to what I said at the start of this chapter; both the ruler mentality and the caretaker mentality are incomplete. They are in fact artifacts of Greco-Roman philosophy that have no place in a Judeo-Hebrew story.
Greco-Roman philosophy can be traced to the classic argument between Plato and Aristotle over the existence of ultimate, non-material and unchanging reality, as Plato taught or Aristotle’s idea that the only constant is change. Those who held with Plato could only conclude that ultimate reality was perfect and unchanging and anything else was by definition broken and inferior. When this idea is superimposed upon the biblical narrative Plato’s view of unchanging reality can be made to fit neatly within the story of creation as how life was supposed to unfold in the Garden of Eden. After the fall we now live in a broken and inferior world waiting for the day in which God will return to restore creation and condemn all those who do not fit within His definition of perfection to eternal damnation.
But Judeo-Hebrew philosophy tells a very different story. First of all, nowhere in the first two chapters of Genesis is creation called “perfect” as Plato would have it. Creation is declared “good” and “very good” but never perfect. Good leaves room for improvement while perfection does not. Good allows for change, not just change from the point of view of mankind but also allows God room to maneuver through love and grace. Perfect, does not. There is simply no room for grace if the goal is perfection.
The full implications of this Judeo-Hebrew understanding of goodness versus the Greco-Roman heresy (yes I called it heresy!) of perfection and how it plays out from a socio-economic point of view, is the subject of the rest of this book. For now; regardless of where we ultimately land on the continuum between ruler and caretaker, what is clear from both Genesis One and Two is that serving God is the primary purpose of mankind. When we recognize that God is owner and master of all of creation then the two seemingly conflicting reasons for the creation of mankind, whether we are meant to rule over or take care of creation, boil down to the fact that we were created to serve God without fear or shame.
And how do we do that? When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, in essence, how do we best serve God, his answer spoke volumes about God’s Perfect Economy.
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:35-40]
Money is not the primary mover of God’s Perfect Economy, Love is. And Love, among other things, is the absence of shame.
Loving and serving God is inseparable from loving and serving your neighbor. From the point of view of economic theory mankind’s ruler and caretaker mentalities are only useful when taken in context with a love mentality.
Mankind’s love mentality is meant to supersede both the ruler and caretaker mentality. But sadly, nothing is regarded with more suspicion or contempt than a man who, out of nothing more than love will do things that make no sense in the context of ruler or caretaker.
For example, I am constantly amazed at the reaction many so called Christians have to well meaning economic charities. Even though there are over 2000 direct commands in scripture in regard to caring for the poor and disenfranchised, giving to the poor is too often seen by the so called Christian Right as socialist income redistribution and somehow actually a disincentive for the poor to work. The Protestant Work Ethic which so deeply permeates western society and gives some credence to the notion of charity as a disincentive is actually an artifact of the aforementioned Greco-Roman philosophy and is predicated on a subtext of shame. The Protestant Work Ethic says in essence, “If you do not work as hard as your neighbor, if you do not contribute to society you are somehow less deserving”. This notion of works based ethics (not to be confused with works based salvation) would have been completely foreign in the Judeo-Hebrew context of the Garden of Eden.
Call it what you will, Social Gospel, Income Redistribution or out-right Communism, mankind’s love mentality leads to some very counter intuitive, counter cultural action. To be naked and unashamed then means to accept our vulnerability, accept our limitations, and accept our need for God and each other in community.
God’s Perfect Economy is an economy based not on power, (ruler), or works (caretaker) but on love. It is love that holds everything in balance and since God is love, when we reject Him, love is also removed from the equation. Without love our ruler and caretaker mentalities are set in conflict with one another causing the whole thing to fall to pieces.
Before we get ahead of ourselves we need to spend a bit more time understanding how God’s Perfect Economy fell apart. How did we go from life in the garden, where God was there in physical form walking with us and guiding us to become the balanced creatures he intended, capable of holding both the ruler and caretaker mentalities in each hand and acting out of love and grace, to where we find ourselves today?
 McLaren, Brian D., “A New Kind Of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith” HarperCollins 2010