Household Economics

“To choose simplicity is to live into complicated questions without easy answers, taking one step that may make another step possible.”

— Sharon Daloz Parks


Thoughts and questions to help you consider this practice

Good economic practice — positive ways of exchanging goods and services — is about the well-being, the livelihood, of the whole household.

In the face of great economic and environmental challenges, the Christian practice of household economics calls on us to manage our private homes for the well-being and livelihood of this planet we all share.

The household

Our households are anchoring places that define our basic ways of life. Most of us call our primary dwelling place "home." Does the word "home" bring to mind your town or region, or your own house or apartment? Where does our planet home fit in? Do we defend the earth with the same vigor we may defend the security of our private homes?

The term "economics" suggests money, markets, investment, e-commerce, taxes, profit, etc. What are the implications for our understanding of "economy," however, when we recognize that the words "economy," "ecology," and "ecumenical" are all rooted in the Greek word oikos, which means "household"? At what points do we try to resist the pervasive influence of the marketplace in our daily lives?

Busyness and cumber

Do you find yourself working more and faster to secure a sense of belonging and well-being? Do you often feel bloated with cumber as you try to manage all the stuff that clutters your daily life? Many of us feel alone in our busyness. How might it relieve some of our fear and guilt to talk openly about these issues within the household of faith? Does your faith community challenge you to reflect deeply on the ways you spend your time and money?

Linking faith and money

What happens when we link faith and money matters in the church? Would you welcome mutual accountability on these matters, or do you fear that this could lead into difficult or uncomfortable areas?

Do we sometimes act as if our economic lives are separate from our "spiritual" lives? What does the Christian view of creation and incarnation — that God is "home" here in the material world, dwelling among us — suggest about this supposed dichotomy? How do efforts to keep faith separate from economic life create divisions in our communities, such as those that can arise between businesspeople and environmentalists, or between the rich and the poor?


The practice of simplicity can foster a sense of right proportion and right relation within the dynamic and interdependent household of the whole earth. In what ways does this practice appeal to you, and in what ways are you wary of it? Have you noticed that practicing simplicity rarely seems simple?

Economic life is dramatically driven by technological development. How might a given technology affect both the natural world and our way of living together as human beings? How should the choices our society makes about right technology take into account questions of right labor — employee wages and benefits, layoffs, immigrant exploitation, industrial toxins? Within this context, what does it mean for Christians to live as signs of the commonwealth of God?

Mutual aid

"Mutual aid" means not only helping each other in need, but also helping each other break silence about money. How can our faith communities help us discern how well our economic witness corresponds to the ancient prayer of Christian asceticism, "God, make us truly alive"? How can we help each other find ways to reorder our use of time and money? How would our daily lives be changed by our immersion in a spirituality of "abundance and enough-ness"?

  • Cut down the amount of time you spend shopping weekly and monthly. Organize an accountability group and agree to minimize the time you spend shopping, browsing catalogs, visiting bookstores, going to the mall, planning purchases, online shopping, to as little as you possibly can. Later, compare notes, revise the experiment and try again. What do you miss? What needs go unmet?
  • Try for a week to plan your meals around ONLY what you already have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. Make substitutions; eat what you have on hand; try not to buy items for a specific menu. What does this exercise help you to notice about your patterns of consumption?
  • Plan a "simple living" party. Invite everyone attending to bring wholesome food to share and something to perform: a poem to read, a song to sing, a story to tell, a kids' book to read aloud, puppets.
  • Try for a month to walk or ride a bike any place you have to go that is less than two miles away. Is this possible where you live? What obstacles do you encounter? Do you need to advocate for safer or more walking/biking paths in your town in order to be able to do this?
  • In a trusted group, discuss household economics with each other on a regular basis. Start out by inviting participants to bring credit and debit card receipts from the last month and do a workshop. Give each participant a worksheet and ask each to divide the month's expenditures into three categories: essential, nonessential, and in-between or unsure. Circle any surprising entries. What does this list teach us about where our treasure lies?
  • Try doing dishes as a way of praying. What do you notice when you do a chore this way?

"To my mind, the idea that doing dishes is unpleasant can occur only when you aren't doing them. Once you are standing in front of the sink with your sleeves rolled up, and your hands in the warm water, it is really quite pleasant. I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands. I know that if I hurry in order to eat dessert sooner, the time of washing dishes will be unpleasant and not worth living. That would be a pity, for each minute, each second of life is a miracle. The dishes themselves and the fact that I am here washing them are miracles! In this light, no boundary exists between the sacred and the profane. I must confess it takes me a bit longer to do the dishes, but I live fully in every moment, and I am happy."

— Thich Nhat Han, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

  • Turn off the sound whenever a commercial comes on TV. What do you notice about your attention to the commercial when you can't hear it? Ask yourself or anyone watching with you, "What does the maker of this commercial want from me? How do I want to respond?"
  • TV — what, when, and where? In your household, begin asking not only what should and should not be watched on TV, and when, but where the TV should be located. Some families will not place the TV in an eating area or in parts of the home where they would otherwise be in conversation with each other.
  • Divest yourself of things you don't use. Pair up with someone and promise to help each other go through closets and garages to find every item you haven't used in a year and donate it to an organization or recycle it. Then, don't buy anything for a month. If you see something you want, put it on a list to wait until the month is up. What happens at the end of the month? Do you still really want the things on the list by the time the month is over?
  • Covenant together with your group or family not to spend money on the Sabbath.
  • Consider environmental tithing, encouraging congregational members to reduce by one-tenth the amount of power and water used in homes and houses of worship.
  • Begin a mutual aid support group. A group of young professionals in a church discovered that the potential of each of their lives was hampered by low-grade, but real, economic anxiety. They decided to contribute to a common fund that could be used to help support any one of them who took an economic risk in order to enhance the quality and contribution of his or her life. Even if they didn't have to use the fund, it freed them up to take risks they wouldn't otherwise have taken.
  • Try limiting phone calls to five minutes, especially with people who tie you up on the phone for long stretches. Sometimes let the call go to voicemail. Start with deciding certain times NOT to answer the phone.
  • Plan (or imagine) an overnight retreat or camping trip using no electricity. What electronic conveniences would you have to do without? What would you do for cooking? Light? Games? Music? What would be the most fun about such a trip?


Faith and Money Network offers online study groups, workshops, money mentoring, and more in an attempt to help individuals explore, understand, and address issues of money and faith in their own lives, as well as in their families, political systems, institutions, and world.

Worship Materials

Jesus said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing...Instead, strive for God's kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."

— Luke 12:22-23, 31


Leader: Anchor us, O God,
When the swirl of living threatens to undo our being.
People: God, make us truly alive.

Leader: Anchor us, O God,
When making our livelihood threatens to smother our liveliness.
People: God, make us truly alive.

Leader: Anchor us, O God,
When a driving pulse of technology threatens to drive us away from you.
People: God, make us truly alive.

Leader: Anchor us, O God,
When concern about money threatens to obscure our true security.
People: God, make us truly alive.

Leader: Anchor us, O God,
When we forget that you are home.
People: God, make us truly alive.

— Lani Wright, Cottage Grove, Oregon



Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ

"Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again, pass the Word around: loaves abound!"
Text: Fred Kaan

We Plow the Fields and Scatter

"...the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand..."
Text: Matthias Claudius

We Come to the Hungry Feast

"...hungry for a word of peace
...hungry for a world released
...hungry that the hunger cease..."
Text and music: Ray Makeever

God, Whose Giving

"God, whose giving knows no ending from your rich and endless store..."
Text: Robert L. Edwards
Text copyright (c) 1961, renewal 1989 The Hymn Society

Take My Life

"Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee..."
Text: Frances Havergal

Books & Films

Read more about Common Fire: Lives of Commitment in a Complex World
Common Fire: Lives of Commitment in a Complex World
Laurent A. Parks Daloz, Cheryl H. Keen, James P. Keen, and Sharon Daloz Parks

A landmark study that reveals how we become committed to the common good and sustain such commitments in a changing world.

Read more about Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things
Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things
John Ryan and Alan Thein Durning

Tracing back the layers of distribution, commerce, and production involved in everyday consumer goods, Stuff is an engaging and fact-packed look at the people and places that are affected every time you sip your coffee, tie your shoes, click your mouse, step on the gas, or read a book.

Read more about The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure
The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure
Juliet B. Schor

This pathbreaking book explains why, contrary to all expectations, Americans are working harder than ever.

Read more about God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and the Political Economy
God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and the Political Economy
M. Douglas Meeks

The absence of God in economic matters is viewed as necessary to the great advances in modern economy. The difficulty with modern market economies, however, is that human livelihood is also left out of the theory and practice of the market economy.

Read more about Freedom of Simplicity
Freedom of Simplicity
Richard J. Foster

A revised and updated edition of the manifesto that shows how simplicity is not merely having less stress and more leisure but an essential spiritual discipline for the health of our soul.

Read more about Places in the Heart
Places in the Heart

This award-winning film by Robert Benton is set in a small Texas town during the Great Depression. A widow with two young children struggles to save her family and farm by expanding her household to include a blind war veteran and a Black man who knows how to raise cotton.

Read more about Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy
Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy
Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver

Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver use the core Quaker principle of “right relationship” — interacting in a way that is respectful to all and that aids the common good — as the foundation for a new economic model.

Read more about Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
Bill McKibben

McKibben offers a realistic, if challenging, scenario for a hopeful future. Deep Economy makes the compelling case that the more we nurture the essential humanity of our economy, the more we will recapture our own.

Read more about Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity
Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity
Catherine Whitmire

For anyone feeling too busy or too stressed seeking to simplify their life, this guide maps out several routes to simplicity. For over 300 years, the Quakers have lived out of a spiritual center in a way of life they call “plain living.” Their accumulated experiences and distilled wisdom have much to offer anyone seeking greater simplicity today.

What Others Are Doing

Read more about A justice network equips participants to live simply, give generously
Participants in Micah Six:Eight are empowered to take concrete action to transform communities, like tending fields. Photos courtesy of BFJN


read more about Consumerism (in series “Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics”)

Consumerism (in series “Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics”)

Robert Kruschwitz

This issue of “Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics” features a collection of essays on the topic of consumerism. (c) 2003 The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials for personal or group study.

read more about Making Our Cup of Coffee Part of God’s Economy (original title: “A Cup of Justice”)

Making Our Cup of Coffee Part of God’s Economy (original title: “A Cup of Justice”)

Karla Kauffman

The author suggests ways that local congregations can make cups of coffee part of God’s economy.

read more about Study Guide: “Money Enough”

Study Guide: “Money Enough”

Robert Johnson & Doug Hicks

This is the study guide to “Money Enough: Everyday Practices for Living Faithfully in the Global Economy” by Douglas A. Hicks.

read more about Study Guides for “Consumerism”

Study Guides for “Consumerism”

Robert Kruschwitz

This is a companion study guide to the “Consumerism” issue of “Christian Reflection: A Series in Faith and Ethics.” (c) 2003 The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce these materials for personal or group study.