Megan Ribbens, a young missionary wife and mother in Nigeria, reported “a most beautiful act of random kindness” yesterday: “A crippled man leaning on a stick hobbled into the middle of the intersection to undo the jigsaw puzzle of cars and continued to direct traffic.” Thanks, Megan, for taking advantage of free speech and free press to let your 1005 Facebook friends “see” him too. He may be limited by a disability and poverty, but this man is what I call free–carefree, self-abandoned, bold in exercising his free will for the good of others.
Richard Foster’s classic book links freedom with simple, disciplined living and exuberant generosity. Foster cites many biblical limits to free enterprise which insured (1) that the needs of the poor were met “whether or not the person deserved to be poor;” and (2)that the health of the earth and its creatures was maintained. For example, “oxen that trod out the grain should not be muzzled” but allowed to eat while they worked.
Monday here in Greenbelt at the New Deal Cafe a standing-room- only crowd watched the film “What’s the Economy for?” Many of us signed the position statement advocating a steady state economy. Unbridled free enterprise is not only unjust according to the Bible, it is also dangerous for national security because of competition for dwindling energy supplies and resources. Making an ever-higher gross national product the measure of liberty leads to myriad gross problems which only curtail our freedom including over-consumption, false advertising, planned obsolescence, pollution, out-sourcing and mountains of trash.
Jesus’ brother James who called himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” knew the joy of true freedom: “those who look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continue in it…will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25). Shane Claiborne and followers of the simple way are among today’s joyous freedom ambassadors, worry-free, tasting and sharing “the first-fruits of the Spirit” in the “glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21-23).