The ART of Hope

The ART of Hope

In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs us not to worry about what we will eat or wear for God, He says, provides. Yet how can we not worry, especially today? Although Jesus says that God provides, society operates on a very different logic. The early bird, we say, gets the worm. And there is only one worm, reserved for the fastest, shrewdest, earliest rising and hardest working among us. The rest get left behind.

This is the world of scarcity. Our economy runs on it. Contrary to Jesus’ assurance, economists tell us there are limited resources and unlimited needs. If true, life is a zero sum game where anything you have is less for me. This leaves us pitted against each other in a competitive dog-fight and hopelessly alone. Alone, we are painfully aware of our vulnerability. In the face of forces we don’t understand and can’t control, we recognize our own social and economic precariousness. Yet we also feel the pressure to be independent, strong and in control.

Fear is the fruit of this dilemma. We fear for ourselves that we will get left behind. We fear our neighbour, who may just be faster, shrewder, earlier rising and harder working than us. Yet we also fear being alone. And we fear a God that may be either unable or unwilling to provide for us. In fear we either withdraw and try to take control of what we can, or we turn against each other, as there is always someone to blame for our fear. But these two responses only increase our scarcities, leaving us even more vulnerable and alone, further amplifying our fears. It is a vicious circle; one that diminishes us materially, socially and spiritually.

Poverty is the name we give to this condition. When we think about poverty, we usually think about a lack of money and the things it can buy. But is the goal of reducing poverty simply to make people better consumers? Or is it to envision a different world where all people can flourish? Perhaps such a world is what Jesus envisioned when He spoke of the “kingdom of God”. Seeking that kingdom, He said, is the key to God’s provision.

Seeking the kingdom requires, first of all, trust. We must trust that God has indeed provided enough for everyone, not just the fastest, shrewdest, earliest rising and hardest working among us. Then, we can begin to trust our neighbour and set aside our tendencies to withdraw or turn against each other in acts of aggression or blame. This allows us to cooperate, rather than compete, recognizing that we are in fact inter-dependent, not independent, beings, deeply in need of God and each other.

In so doing, we become resilient, both individually and as a society. Resilient societies are ones with high levels of trust that welcome diverse voices, share power and cooperate. When we are able to do that, we can unlock the resources abundantly present within and around us. Contrary to the vicious circle of scarcity, vulnerability and fear, we instead create a virtuous circle of abundance, resilience and trust (ART). Trust creates resilience, which leads to abundance.

The key is to transcend the prevailing myths of scarcity and autonomy that leave us materially, socially and spiritually diminished. In their place we must think about ourselves differently, not as independent, rational, competitive, self-seeking beings, but rather as inherently inter-dependent, spiritual, and cooperative seekers of meaning. In so doing we restore the marred relationships we have with God, ourselves, and each other.

Applying the principles of ART is a creative process that engages the mind, body and spirit. It challenges us to tend to the things that bring life and presents us with the opportunity to flourish, not merely survive. And in that, there is great hope. This is the vision of the book The ART of Hope: Healing the Wounded City recently published by Tyndale Academic Press. For more information or to order a copy visit