Hot Enough For Yah?

That has got to be the most inane question anyone could ask; right up there with cold enough for yah or how do you like all this rain?

Somebody actually asked me that yesterday and with today set to be the hottest day in Toronto in over 75 years I’m sure I’ll be asked again.  Just to be a smart-ass I answered “no actually, another 2 or 3 degrees would make this idea!”

Well today I may get my wish; forecasters are calling for temperatures to reach 37 degrees, (that’s 99 for my American friends) in Toronto, well over 40 when you factor in humidity.

During the current heat wave as many as 22 people have died as a result of high temperatures.  More are expected before the system breaks.  But no, it’s not hot enough for me, how about you?

As early as January CNN was reporting that heat related illness was on the rise and this summer could see the most people ever admitted to hospital with complications due to extreme heat.  And as recently as June we were all complaining about how cold and wet it was.  Even here on this very blog I talked about climate change and worried that if the rain didn’t stop soon the farmers wouldn’t be able to plant their crops.  “Quit Complaining About the Weather”

Well now that the rain has stopped and the crops are in the ground we need the moisture more than ever!

Last week, while driving not far from my house I saw a dust cloud kicking up out of a valley.  As I approached I noticed that maintenance workers were attempting to mow the lawn in a city park.  The grass is dead, hasn’t measurably grown in 2 or more weeks but they have a contract to keep it cut regularly so there they were, running their high speed mowers over a dead and dusty field.  It reminded me of the dust bowl of the 1930s.

And that’s where we’re at my friends.  A cold wet spring forced farmers to plant late, now a hot dry summer is stunting the growth of crops and the last time temperatures reached 37 degrees in Toronto was 1936. We all know what the history books say about the 1930s.

Yup, we’re screwed!

But hey, why not smile and ask a stranger if it’s hot enough for yah?  That’ll be funny, right?

Meekonomics – How to Inherit The Earth and Live Life to The Fullest Under God’s Economy

I realize that it is an act of sheer hubris to attempt to write a book called Meekonomics.  The meek don’t write books do they?  Especially Mennonite kids from Southern Ontario with no formal education in either economics or theology.

This book is the result of 6 years of prayer, research and reflection on two things that have driven me for almost as long as I can remember; God and Money.

Although I have always held a strong faith my relationship with money has been an extreme roller-coaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.  I’m an entrepreneur.  I started my first business at the age of the age of 10; I had an opportunity to become a millionaire before my 26th birthday only to fall victim to an unscrupulous fraudster and ended up bankrupt at 33.

My drive to understand money and reconcile economics with my faith started to take root in the fall of 2007 not long after I first filed for bankruptcy.  What I soon realized is that reconciliation of the God and Money issue is not just a personal question, although personal finance is a big part of it, it’s really required on both a micro and macro-economic scale if our society is to survive.

Call it what you will; estate or retirement planning, investments, pension plans etc.  It all comes down to the storing up of treasures on earth just as Jesus warned us not to do.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:19-24]

Meekonomics is a new way of looking at our relationship with God and Money.  As Jesus said, the meek shall inherit the earth but in God’s economy that means something completely different than what many people might think.  And if we don’t fundamentally change the way we steward the earth there won’t be anything left to inherit anyway.

I have a confession to make.

The more research I put in to this idea the more I realized that my relationship with money was the result of a constant striving to serve two masters and has led to a myriad of sin.  I’m not ashamed to admit it or use such strong words.  Sin is sin.  In my drive for money I have lied, cheated, committed fraud and outright theft.  Of course I always managed to convince myself that I was just borrowing, but borrowing without permission is theft, even if you pay it back before anyone notices.  So the hours I have spent in research and writing, and the hours I continue to spend in this pursuit are in some way my penance for the people I’ve hurt and the damage I have done in my relentless pursuit of money.

It was when I began to realize just how sinful my love of money had made me that I found in Proverbs the Pray of Agur;

O God, I beg of you two favours before I die.
First, help me never to tell a lie.
Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. [Proverbs 30:7-9]

This has become my mantra.  It’s taped to the inside of my wallet so I can see it every time I reached for one of my many credit cards.  I’ve had to replace that piece of paper a few times, it’s gotten ripped and beaten up pretty badly but as I’ve said that prayer almost every day for the last 6 years, it’s changed me.  I no longer view money as a right, I don’t even view it as a privilege, or a tool; I view it as a responsibility. Repeating the prayer of Agur, requesting neither poverty nor riches, is really a prayer that God in his infinite grace and wisdom will not give me more than I can handle.  I’ve been on the verge of riches and I squandered it, I’ve been in the depths of poverty and I stole in order to achieve those things I thought were my right, I clearly cannot be trusted, not without the grace of God at least.

So as I journey through my relationship with God and Money I am trying to look at the world of economics through the rubric of three broad perspectives.

First; I want to explore a theological study of the issue from an Anabaptist perspective and look at how it has related to traditional economic theories throughout history.  In the 16th century a group of Christian leaders rebelled against their own religion calling for a total separation of church and state, a rejection of violence in all its forms and a way of life that respected the economic realities of stewardship and community.  When most people think of Anabaptists today they think of the Amish and Quakers clinging to a way of life that is separate from western society and rejects modern conveniences but Anabaptists are so much more than that.  I will explore how the Anabaptist faith led to the invention of community based banking such as Credit Unions and Mutual Insurance as a way of sharing risk and making the protection of personal property the responsibility of the entire community.

Second; I want to undertake an in-depth study of the so-called market economy and capitalism, how it started, what it has become and how it is radically different from what the first capitalists ever intended.  It has been said that history is written by the victors.  That is just as true for the history of conflict and war as it is for the history of development and wealth.  But what if we told history from the perspective of the vanquished?  What if we looked at wealth and development from the perspective of the poor?  It’s no secret that free market capitalism has emerged as the dominant form of economics the world over, but what does that really mean and what does it say about our society as a whole?  What has the free market done to isolated communities?  What has it done to one industry towns?  And was does it do to individuals?

Third; I want to look at economics from an ecological perspective.  As I mentioned earlier there isn’t much point in any of this if there isn’t much of an earth left to inherit.  The Iroquois of North America used to make decisions for their communities based on the impact it would have to the seventh generation.  Today, driven by forces of the market and the need for immediate profit, decisions are made with no regard at all for future generations, indeed very little consideration is given beyond the next quarterly earnings report.  This has put an unbelievable strain on the balance of God’s very creation and it begins with a misinterpretation of man’s role as spelled out in Genesis.

Lastly; I want to tie it all together in a clear and coherent plan for life in accordance with the teaching of Jesus and God’s will for the stewardship of our assets, our planet and the protection of the weakest members of our communities.  This must be looked at from both a financial and spiritual perspective so that we may all live a life of abundance secure in the grace of God and loving support of our communities.

As fate would have it, as I was formulating this introduction I glanced at my smart phone and saw that Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and founder of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California had posted his economic theory through on twitter.

“Capitalism: What’s mine is mine & I Keep it.  Socialism: What’s yours is mine & I can take it.  Bible: It’s all God’s and I share it.” (@RickWarren)

Unbeknownst to him in less than 140 characters Mr. Warren created the perfect definition of Meekonomics.  With that in mind I’m ready to dive in to what I hope and pray will be as eye-opening and life changing for you, my readers and it was and continues to be for me in researching and writing it.