"gift economy"

Yesterday, an article Heather had sent me brought to mind a good example of something I don't want to compromise, and also one of the "pure and impossible" good things I was talking about earlier. It's become known as "gift economy". It is widely discussed as an economic theory (goods and services are given rather than traded, offered freely, without expectation of repayment), and is seen in examples like Freecycle and the many open source software projects. But my commitment to it was inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus.

Jesus taught that we should give without expecting repayment, because God has been so generous with us. And he even said that we should especially give to those who cannot pay us back. We see this teaching in passages like these:

"Preach as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay." (Mt 10.7-8)

"If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High..." (Lk 6.33-35)

"When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." (Lk 14.12-14)

Combined with this kind of giving was the trust that others would be inspired to give also, so that all needs could be met by free gifts, without the demand for payment or trade. While most see this as idealistic and not achievable in our sinful, self-interest-driven society (except perhaps in very limited ways), Jesus promised that his Father would meet our needs if we followed his teaching and example. And his own life of giving (and living on the gifts of others) demonstrated that God can make this impossibility possible.

My experience trying to follow Jesus in this has been good so far (for almost ten years now). Beyond what I could hope or expect, actually. But it becomes much harder to see how it could work with a family. I'm waiting to be shown...

(Now that I think of it, probably the best and most numerous examples of people living the "gift economy" life are mothers and missionaries—though they usually don't preach it like Jesus did.)