I was raised Christian. Although I no longer participate in the traditions, I value the teachings. The words from Matthew 6:24 recently popped into my mind, “No man can serve two masters…he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” mammon meaning money or economic systems based on covetousness (an old word for greed). I had always figured that as long as I wasn’t in the mafia, I pretty much had that covered.
I was raised with a belief that as long as I didn’t participate in sinful behaviors and helped those within my community, that was the ticket to a peaceful and prosperous life, and heavenly rewards in the next life. Yet Jesus was a whole lot more revolutionary than that. He wasn’t interested in promoting the status quo but instead was killed because of fear that his teachings would disrupt the existing power structures. His was not a message of political subterfuge, because he admonished “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Rather it was a warning against the fear-based coping that keeps us stuck operating and making a living within systems that we know are not making the world better, or are downright corrupt. The ubiquitous excuse—for those aware enough to admit to unwilling complicity in supporting an unfair status quo—is “it’s just the way things are,” “I have family to take care of,” or “I’m powerless to change it. It’s part of the plan. Jesus will come back and make it right.” Some of that may be true; however, the “I’m powerless to change it” belief is a cop-out. There is some small way, no matter what our limitations, in which we can vote with our dollar and speak truth to power.
Being self-employed, I am grateful for the freedom I have to choose my clients. I used to serve whoever came my way. At some point, I realized that while it seemed a good thing to be equitable in helping people, especially when most of my clients were in the helping professions, for some I was just helping them get a pay raise in a job that was already comfortable. That made me feel I was acting as somewhat a cog in a dysfunctional system. I respect those who stay in their workplace or industry as they continue to try to make it better, and help people served by it. Yet it became clear to me that the majority of systems and institutions are engineered to keep any real change-makers from ever reaching positions of power, or to eject any who make their one bid to shake the status quo. At heart I’m an activist, so as my awareness grew—as I realized the apparent problems would not get fixed because they served the interests of those in power—I knew it was time to turn my attention to replacement options, promoting work-arounds that bypass systemically corrupt institutions. That’s when I realized Jesus wasn’t trying to help his followers live comfortably here and win prizes in the hereafter. That’s a politicized version of Christianity that maintains the status quo. I finally understood Matthew 6:24. With my limited time and energy I now choose to work only in ways that afford me the most positive impact I am capable of. I might put myself financially at risk doing so. If I look at the situation from a Christian lens, I would say that’s the real test of whether I trust God, the Universe, the Source. Am I willing to serve the highest moral code that I can conceive of, and quit serving economic systems based on self interest and the greed-is-good mentality promoted by those who benefit from trickle-down economics? I now include this kind of language in my client screening process: “I need to know what your mission is. We have serious deficiencies in this nation, and I have decided that whatever it might cost me in loss of business, I need to focus my effort on projects that matter more than only bringing me income and helping clients get a pay raise. If we aren’t a good fit from a values perspective, I will be happy to refer you to others who I believe can help you.” It sounds extreme. It is definitely outside the norm, but it works for me. I give my best to clients, and I want to know the people I’m working hard for are doing their part to make the world better.