We need government. We need to work from the Kingdom of God. And we need to seek to understand what our responsibilities are and how to be Christ-like within systems we often cannot control which are designed to maximize self-centered gain. We are not mere principles of use for complex systems of our societies.
Scripture tells us that power belongs to God, and even more, steadfast love belongs to God too. People may have power and love, but this power and love is less than God and are still dependent upon God’s love and power. There are political and economic forces that seek to funnel our lives by their powerful influences in directions that we really may have no idea what way we are being forced. Yet for the Christian, The Triune God wants to lead us with his steadfast love.
Part of Polanyi’s theme in his text leads me to consider the idea of a lordship dilemma. His context was the Second World War, which faced forces that sought to destroy the systems he knew. His text attempts to tackle the complexities of interrelated forces of economics and politics, to name a couple. Joseph Stiglitz wrote in reference to Polanyi, “Among his central thesis’ are the ideas that self-regulating markets never work; their deficiencies, not only in their internal workings but also in their consequences (e.g., for the poor), are so great that government intervention becomes necessary; and that the pace of change is of central importance in determining these consequences.” It would make sense that this became evident given the rebuilding of a nation’s infrastructure needs multiple streams of inputs.
With wars, market fluctuations, political and economic unrest, and control of market discussions that were included in Polanyi’s work, I am reminded that we live in different yet similar luminal times.
Who is lord and what compels us to follow, is the question humankind has faced since our first parents. Jesus faced a similar question after his baptism. Later in Jesus’s ministry, we learn from John’s Gospel that Jesus taught his first disciples, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” Jesus was drawing a sharp distinction between two kingdoms. The disciples were being taught that there was a kingdom of their world which was held by Caesar at that time and another kingdom yet to be understood, which Jesus was Lord of (John 18:36). Christians are part of both kingdoms, at least temporarily. Under Caesar’s of this world, we have certain obligations that involve material things with no real love attached. Under Christ, we have other obligations that involve things eternal without neglecting the former. If Caesar demands money, give it to him—it’s only mammon. But make sure we also give God what He demands.
David wrote in Psalm 62:11-12, “Because you know, Lord, what it is that a human has done, You alone will be the source of power and love for them.” This is what compelled him to follow God as his Lord. David is seeing the character of God and that God’s love rises above the pressures of this world.
In my current position, we are looking at the similarities between rural and inner-city contexts. In a New York Times opinion piece, I found this apropos to the discussion of how outside forces regulate lives and their significant impact on decision-making processes. “But it’s also important to get real. There are powerful forces behind the relative and in some cases, the absolute economic decline of rural America — and the truth is that nobody knows how to reverse those forces. We can’t help rural America without understanding that the role it used to play in our nation is being undermined by powerful economic forces that nobody knows how to stop.”
Who is lord and what compels us to follow our lords and their influences was a critical question in this text? “The outstanding discovery of recent historical and anthropological research is that man’s economy, as a rule, is submerged in his social relationships. He does not act so as to safeguard his individual interest in the possession of material goods; he acts so as to safeguard his social standing, his social claims, his social assets. He values material goods only in so far as they serve this end.” Though I would like to ask Polanyi if this is a socialist point of view, I do see self-centeredness as the chief influence of being separated from God’s best. And that condition, though sought to be controlled by governments of this world, can really only be controlled by a new heart that is created by a relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, my question is who are our lords and what compels us to follow them? We seem to live on one side of a portal into eternity where significant forces seek to distract us, control our movement and reactions, and seek to bring order for societies as well.
God’s goal is that we can fully realize the abundant life we are called to live together. The complex forces seeking to distract us from another savior and lord can be quite compelling. Let us work within our systems, speak up and seek life-giving changes when possible, and work as Christ wants us to within these tensions. May pastors be cognizant of the challenges within their parishes and that has the ability to inhibit the mission to disciple.
 Paul Krugman, “Getting Real About Rural America: Nobody knows how to reverse the heartland’s decline,” New York Times, March 18, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/18/opinion/rural-america-economic-decline.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share.