Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Winners and losers: individualism and the common good

At the deepest level, what individualism gets wrong about the world is that life is not a competition. We often think that we live in a world of competing desires and it’s dog eat dog, sink or swim. In a world like that, the strongest or cleverest or quickest or richest will get the best toys and the devil take the hindmost. But the good news of Jesus is that this is not in fact the case. What is best for me is what is best for you. And what is best for you is what is best for me. God wakes us from the nightmare of self-obsession to discover the wonderful news that there is such a thing as the common good. It may not always be easy to find; it may well require that we deny ourselves and take up our cross in order to follow Jesus. But it is not the case that the only way I can win is if you lose.

6 comments:

nathanjameslee said...

Wonderful insight! Perhaps especially for those of us with Type A personalities...

CJW said...

How odd that conservative 'family values' politics is keenest to promote economic liberalism's assumption that life is better (more efficient) when people work against, rather than with each other.

But for those with a God of scarcity rather than abundance, how could life be about anything but competition?

Drew said...

Even without being "woken", the nightmare is even worse than we realise:

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

byron smith said...

CJW - yes, it is odd, though I guess they might say that it comes from taking seriously the effects of sin, and so recognising that most people will treat life as a competition most of the time (even though this undermines what is best for everyone).

Drew - good point.

peter j said...

can I have some points for spotting the pergamon museum picture?

byron smith said...

Sure - I'll pay fifteen for that.