Oikonomic Wealth

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In previous posts, I’ve tried to shape a conversation around the differences between economics and oikonomics by arguing that economics is centered in the intentional pursuit of wealth, power, profit, and pleasure that, all-too-often, comes at the expense of other ways of defining wealth (relational, emotional, physiological, and spiritual). Juxtaposing the metaphors of resumes and roots, I made the case that resumes, while seemingly intrinsic to job acquisition, actually worked, often in subtle, unconscious ways, to shape and determine our sense of identity, place, and purpose in the world in ways that are not always conducive to full human and communal flourishing.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time defining what I mean by economic wealth; in this post, I’d like to close by offering a prophetic picture of what oikonomic wealth could look like.

For starters, I think it begins in deeply rooted, covenantal communities. Communities that are shaped with intention, purpose, and mindfulness. Communities like the one my friend Blair Humphries is working to shape in OKC called Wheeler District: a community where artists, entrepreneurs, creatives, dreamers, collaborators, non-profits, social activists, and all sorts of “lovers of the city” can call home. Whereas most of us choose our homes and neighborhoods based upon proximity to work or upscale amenities, communities like Wheeler are designed for those who seek deeper relational intentionality to their space and place. It is a place for those who are committed to walking out a long obedience in the same direction.

I think it would look like nuclear families choosing the deep roots of extended family over the shallow soil of resume chasing. It would be purposeful in its desire to weave together multi-generational connections, whereby grandparents are the Elders, passing down blessing and birthright to younger generations.

It would (to quote Stephen Covey) keep “first things first.” It would turn down those opportunities that might look good on paper to build deeply into those things that have more transcendent value.

It would be held with a loose hand. Whereas economic wealth, by its very nature, must be held closely with fists clenched, oikonomic wealth is transformative in its sacrificial nature, as evidenced in the act of Monsieur Beinvenue, the priest from whom the escaped convict Jean Valjean steals at the beginning of Les Miserables, who, upon learning that Valjean has made off with his finest dinnerware, offers him his silver candlesticks as well, claiming that they do not belong to Bienvenue, but rather, are to be used for Good. Oikonomics sees possessions as truly valuable only as they further blessing, identity, and transformation.

Oikonomic wealth places relational trust as its highest value of exchange, believing that, where relational trust is high, money becomes not only unnecessary but offensive.

The vision of communities rooted in oikonomics is one that runs counter-culture to one dominated by economics. Rather than individuals coming together as competing consumers in the marketplace, oikonomics brings communities together as neighbors in pursuit of their shared common good.

Oikonomic wealth replaces the board room with the dinner table, power meetings with long, leisurely meals, competitive advantage with conversational engagement.

It does not seek to make others a means to one’s own ends, but rather, sees others as ends unto themselves.

In short, oikonomic wealth is an inversion of the way we typically define wealth, placing the things we value most deeply as human beings at the center and walking away from those things that seek to disrupt, distract, or destroy our shared humanity.

Though there are many more examples, I want to open it up to you. What are your thoughts on oikonomic wealth? What examples can you offer? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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