Gospel gives us a prospect. Ahead lie opportunities. The future may be bigger than the present. More may be expected of us. We may look forward and be expectant, and so we are prepared to wait for one another, welcome one another’s efforts and to talk one another up. This is the fundamental assumption that has enabled and motivated the rising hopes of peoples under the cultural influence of the gospel. Through hearing the gospel they discovered the advantages of the culture and law of universal mutual-respect, and so of civil society. As a result, they became communities of growing political participation – sovereign nations – and so experienced economic take-off. The point about a nation is that it is a population that follows a single rule of law by which no one can be robbed of the product of their work. When this is so, everyone has a motive to work and to discover how, through new techniques and technology, to achieve more by their work. Curiosity and inventiveness are rewarded.
It is the closed economy of Christian discipleship that creates and sustains the open economy. We are free, because we are given freedom. Yet it is not ours until we have also taken this freedom, and the only way to take on this freedom is by taking on a particular limitation of this freedom, the particular discipline of Christian discipleship. We can take on this form of constraint in order to grow into this freedom. We will never have this freedom unless we exercise it within this discipline and restraint. It is the form of service that will bring self-mastery. The true master is a master of self-mastery. The true master discovers and learns and unceasingly exercises his self-mastery through putting himself through an apprenticeship. He does so by serving all those with less self-mastery than himself. The powerful remains power only by serving the helpless and wildly flailing people around him. They lash out, and he gets buffeted by them. He comes to their aid and they fight back and excoriate him while he does so. He exudes calm, while they punish him for not being as frenzied, demented and angry as they are.
We can show what the effect of the gospel is by contrast with the other cult, which has the opposite effect. It produces highly polarised societies in which a tiny elite who hold all the wealth and the majority have nothing, not only no wealth or prosperity, but no working capital and no hope of gaining or of hanging on to any. As soon as anyone hears that you have made money, the strongman sends his enforcers around to take it from you.
So two cults. One of consent. One of coercion. One of freedom, the other of force. The one will be patient and wait, expects change and looks forward to an eventual transformation and new situation. The pushes relentlessly, in this moment and every moment, and is always pushing us back towards zero. It is determined that nothing shall ever be different from the original shove that stops us and pushes us backwards, so that we all end up with less than we started with.