Once upon a time there were only two jobs a person could have: Hunter or Gatherer. There were no Pastors then, no Artists, no Personal Enrichment Gurus. Over time our economic system expanded, we developed farming for plants and animals, and then began to specialize ourselves, such that If I became good at raising pigs, and you became good at growing rice, we could trade with one another so that each of us would have both.
Later on, society developed to the point where not all of us needed to be constantly devoted to our immediate survival. So we began to see specialists in religion, and education spring up, being supported by the rest of their society in order to go about their business full time, while still being able to eat.
Fast forward again, and you began to see professional artists, sculptors, musicians and poets develop. Still supported by the community, but this time indirectly. Rather than the tribe or city as a whole committing to give in order to reap the benefits of these specialists we saw individuals, some of whom had managed to amass substantial personal wealth, paying artists in order to enable them to keep making art. Such people were called “Patrons of the Arts”
One of the most famous and important patrons of the arts was the Catholic Church, who supported the likes of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. This was done on the belief that good art would be glorifying to God, and therefore a righteous cause for the Christian church to support. (also our ceilings would be boring otherwise)
This system persisted as the primary means for artists to support themselves until relatively recent memory (it continues even today in a diminished capacity for operas and such) but nowadays artists of various kinds generally support themselves the same way everybody else does, not by large donations from a small number of wealthy contributors, but by small donations from individuals who immediately benefit. So now even art has become capitalized.
Now in America we don’t hunt or farm to survive, we fill a hyperspecialised role, for which we receive a salary, and then we use that salary to patronize any number of other specialists and receive their goods. Art, Religion, and Education are now in the same free market as everything else, fighting for their share of your patronage.
But somewhere along the line we lost that clear understanding we previously had that being a patron meant supporting a benefactor in what they were doing. And being a Christian patron meant choosing a benefactor who was glorifying to God. That concept was so obvious historically, it went without saying.
I think our problem is that we don’t know we’re patrons. Or we don’t understand what that word means, hence the history lesson. We as Americans, just as much as kings and wealthy financiers in ages past have become patrons of whatever we choose to purchase. And we, like them, have a duty to use that power for the betterment of the Kingdom.
This, in my opinion, is the primary means by which Average Joes are able to participate in the redemption of the world. If we can learn to leverage our buying power to support truth and justice at all times, we can accomplish more for the cause of Christ than we could dream about accomplishing in an entire life spent volunteering in the nursery or doing PowerPoint for a church.
So you’re going to buy a coffee? That’s great, what kind of coffee are you going to get? Is it going to be Fair Trade? What’s the markup on that coffee? Is it from a local shop, or a chain? Do you want more shops like the one you’re buying your coffee at to exist, or fewer?
You’re going to the movies? I love movies! Which movie are you going to see? Because the studios are going to look and see which movie makes the most money, and make more like that one. What do you want to accomplish with that $15 of yours?
You want to give to charity? Fantastic!!! Which charity do you think will do the most good with your money? What cause are you most passionate about? What percent of your donation should be spent on overhead? How much time do you want your charity to spend on the cause itself, and how much time do you want it to spend on “raising awareness” for the cause and recruiting more donors?
You make these decisions over and over, day after day, and every decision you make is a vote. “I support this” “I believe in this” “I want more things like this” and with every dollar, you help create the world of the future, and shape it to be more or less like the Kingdom of God.
What are you a patron of?
Incidentally If you’d like to become a patron of my ministry at K-State contact me at Ryan@IVkansas.org