A few years ago, I met a bride-to-be for the first time. Originally from Dallas, she was living near Shanghai, China with her fiancé. They met in high school, dated through college and now he was running the manufacturing of family’s furniture business. Parents were proud – They learned Mandarin, production was on schedule, and profits were impressive. Of course I had a haunting picture in my mind of what factory work was life overseas. More than wedding plans, I was curious to hear about their work.
“Tell me what it’s like there,” I said. “I have this idea of dorm-style housing for workers, who leave home villages, and work long hours for very little.”
“Yeah, that’s about right. They make about $2/day and work 10-12 hours usually 6 days a week. But they’d work more if we wanted” she said mater-of-factly.
“Really?… Do you ever go in the factories?” I asked. “Oh, no. It’s miserable. It’s so hot and muggy.”
Looking to inspire some imagination, “What if…you were the one company that provided air conditioning for all workers? Or, what would it be like if you were the only company that decided an 8 hour work day was enough and they’d make the same amount? Or, what about if…you were the only employer to pay them an extra $1/day?”
Her response still upsets me…”But it’s all they know.”
“Umm…What if you gave them another day off so they’d have a weekend to visit their families? Do you think that would make a difference?” Silence. Quiet stare.
While I was disheartened by this conversation, I knew if I went home to look at the labels of my clothing, furniture, and appliances I also benefit from to this often exploitive economy. We live in a world that God created and even said was good. But this also isn’t the world that God intended. Our “normal” is broken and it breaks the heart of God. Yet throughout history and scripture, God’s working to restore and repair creation. To do that, God looks to set a part a people – called by His name – that might align with His plans and purposes.
In his book, Oikonomics Mike Breen outlines “Five Capitals” in scripture and in our lives. We all posses these “Capitals" in varying degrees. They serve to grow our faith and restore the world as God intended. In other words, we all have capital to work with!
1. Spiritual Capital: Faith is a like a spiritual muscle – it grows when used. Christ invites us to new life, which also implies we’re supposed to grow. So, how much faith do you have to invest? What next steps God might be prompting you to take in faith?
2. Relational Capital: Right now, you already have influence and favor with people who are restless, in need, and searching for meaning. What next steps can you offer them?
3. Physical Capital: Every season of life feels full. Yet, growing our faith prioritizes time and energy in service and community. Your presence matters. Being present and protecting a ‘standing appointment’ for Christian community makes a difference.
4. Intellectual Capital: We don’t often think of our skills, our work ethic, or achievements as gifts from God. But, where would we be without God’s grace? As faith grows, we see how our intellect, skill sets, and competencies are part of God’s plan to bless others. So, what gifts do you have to offer?
5. Financial Capital: There’s no area that tests and grows one’s faith than finances. Stewarding wealth means we see God as the ultimate Source. Growth and joy emerge – not by achieving a 10% contribution – but by a growing response to God’s leading. How is God guiding you to begin or increase your giving?
It’s easy to want more. But God doesn’t need us to possess more in order to do more. God gives each of us exactly what we need to participate as we become people of hope, justice, mercy, generosity, compassion, and restoration.
Here’s to being a part of God’s restoration! On earth, in Austin, as it is in heaven.