There is a very strong correlation between the Gospel Reading for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 12) and the central ideas of Economics of Compassion. The Gospel Reading (Matthew 13:31-33,44-52) has four parables about the Kingdom of God. In general, when Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God, he was inviting his audience – especially his disciples – to imagine, to embrace and to adopt an alternative basilea, or a kingdom different from Caesar’s kingdom.
As such, the Kingdom of God is an alternative and in opposition to the kingdom of Caesar. Similarly, an economy of compassion is an alternative and an apposition to the economic system we have today.
Towards the end of the text Jesus asks his disciples: “Have you understood all this?” The disciples respond, “Yes!” This is the only place where the disciples are shown to have understood – and it is their own testimony rather than the observation of others.
In general the disciples, and Jesus’ audience as a whole, did not understand Jesus’ claims for the Kingdom of God because their thinking and mindset were shaped by the framework of Caesar’s kingdom. So Jesus was inviting them to adopt a mindset essentially in apposition to the orthodoxy.
Today, the Economics of Compassion initiative is an invitation to a radical change of mind, a different way of looking at the system and imagining alternatives. It is not different from imagining the Kingdom of God as an alternative to Caesar’s system. Jesus’ disciples did not understand what he was calling them to, and today many will not understand the implications of an alternative economy.
Our present narrative, our orthodoxy, is that of an inviolable capitalism insulated against any alternative philosophy. Even when we are certain that the present system has failed and is no longer viable, our mindset cannot accept alternatives. Because it is our framework, we cannot think of anything different. Actually we are reluctant to explore outside the comfort zone – comfort only because it is familiar.
So, what is this alternative like, this Kingdom of God? Its beginnings can be illustrated with a mustard seed or yeast and it is worth everything.