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Dec 11, 2007


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One reason for owning and using more than what is needed for essential human survival is that we are--well--human beings. The flourishing of human life involves much more than food and shelter.


I think Peter is on to something in his comment. "The flourishing of human life requires much more than food and water," yes it does, but at a minimum it requires at least food and water and for our lifestyle to deprive another human of food and water makes us subhuman.
Yes we need more, we need creativity, music, song, dance. But we don't need, LCD TV's (I do have one, cell phones, i-pods, etc. We were no less human in the days before our excessive lifestyles.
It may not make you a murderer to live a life beyond the bare minimum but Matthew 25 certainly tells us that we will have to give account for it.

will spotts

Another factor here is what we can actually do. I know this is an unpopular thought - but if I use something that is beyond my strict needs, but am literally unable to help the person who is doing without minimal resources - perhaps because of political or situational boundaries - then that use is not depriving someone else. As long as I do what I can do - this is not so much of a consideration. To be perfectly clear, most of us ignore the things we can do, so we are complicit in the misery of others ... but my complicity would be my failure to do what I can, not my use of resources.

Also, there are a number of things that are not minimum necessities that are still necessary to health and life. One can do without these for long periods, perhaps, but they still would qualify as relievers in many ways.

Michael W. Kruse

I think Peter is right about human flourishing. I think I hear Neil suggesting that "flourishing" can morph into an excessive lifestyle. Both Neil and Will point out the relational aspects of thinking about the other in the midst of abundance. Will raises the challenge that their are boundaries to what we can do.

I love it. Getting to all the stuff I want to explore. It seems we proabably agree that human flourishing is a legitmate end. But it does raise a couple of interesting questions for me. What would my relationship to weatlh be like if everyone on the planet had an abundance? And what does my flourishing mean while 1 to 2 billion people are living on the edge?

The tendency is to see flourishing in one place as directly linked to suffering in another. Is that true? These are some of the questions I want to get to.


Michael, interestingly enough I am reading Barry Schwartz's book "The Paradox of Choice" right now and it's a fascinating read. He also covers economic/social issues in light people seeking to maximize their choices (he calls them maximizers) and people being satisfied with some choice (satisficers). So most folks really decide between "the best" and "adequate."

Not surprisingly however, satisficers are much more happy in the end, which paradoxically makes the adequate decisions to be ultimately maximizing in their output.

I think in a very real way this is a picture of the Kingdom of God and a window into how God perhaps want us to live and interact with each other. I guess it's somewhat a middle between the two options you presented.


Also, I forgot to mention, you can watch Barry's excellent presentation on the topic at T.E.D. here: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/93


Most of our confusion stems specifically from specific teaching in the NT and from what few hints are available in the NT as to how money, wealth and accumulation of excess was apparently viewed both by Jesus and His disciples.

My personal view (very generally) is that we should be as creative and contributory as possible both from the standpoint of productivity as well as in absolute terms of generating 'excess'.

But, at the same time we should do our best to keep giving it away. We should never have the mindset that we cannot do without and we should have the mindset that the greater need deserves more.


"For our lifestyle to deprive another human of food and water makes us subhuman."

Well said. An addendum to my post above would be that sharing from one's abundance with those who have need is also central to the flourishing of human life.

Michael Kruse


Thanks for the head's up about Schwartz and the link to the video. Great stuff!


Thanks. It is a bit hard to be "giving away" if we aren't producing in the first place, isn't it? :)


And then comes the tricky question: How much sharing is enough and how best to share it?


Hi Virgil,
Indeed, giving when one doesn't have has to be some strange sort of a credit system that I'm not too familiar with. At the same time there is no doubt at all that the in the NT it is entirely voluntary and that this is one place where each individual should be the decision maker.

In a couple of senses one cannot think of the NT teaching as 'giving'. If we are stewards then we are acting in accordance with our Master's wishes in the care of the Master's property. Property that actually includes 'me' in my entirety and do secondly, as we are already 100% owned by God (paid for and bought with a very high price) then we exist entirely in and for His kingdom and there is no room for selfishness anyway!

Simple enough stuff but there's far too much of the old me that resents every little bit of it!


Sorry, in the first para: "there is no doubt at all that"


Neither option in this post makes a lot of sense.

Consumption minus production equals an addition to wealth.
My production is a function of my wealth.

Each of these variables is important.
If sleep all day and produce nothing, I have no wealth to feel guilty about.
If I consume everything that I produce, I have no wealth for others to envy.
We can easily get rid of our wealth, but that does not necessarily help anyone.
On the other hand, an increase in my wealth can be used to help me produce more.

We have to answer several questions.
How much should I produce, ie how hard should I work.
How much should I consume, especially if I have peace in Jesus.
What should I do with my wealth. I could give it to someone poor or I could use it to start an provide employment for people who are poor. Or I could employ clever people and produce products that will help the poor.

The answers to these questions will vary from person to person. In every case, we will need to give an account to God for how much we produce, for what we consume, and would we do with the surplus (wealth).

Michael W. Kruse

As is often the case, Ron, you anticipate where I'm headed. :) Stay tuned!


"...but there's far too much of the old me that resents every little bit of it!"

That carnal nature thing just won't rest, will it? :)

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